Monday, April 04, 2005

Maria full of cocaine

Last night, we saw Maria Full Of Grace, a movie about Colombian cocaine mules -- those people (usually women) who transport cocaine from Colombia to the US using their stomachs as cargo bays.

The BBC and The Guardian have both criticised the film for its lack of macro-political context, but this is the very reason I enjoyed it so much. The story does not feature hyberbolic, machinegun-toting drug men chasing one another through mountains and cities. Instead, it eschews violence and melodrama in favour of the more human and subtle story, the kind of which we rarely see in films about drug trafficking.

Moreover, the mules have resorted to drug smuggling through economic pressures and yet they are not here portrayed as obvious victims: the lead character, Maria, for example, does not think like a victim; she is forthright, intelligent and clear-headed, turning to drug smuggling as a way to support herself during pregnancy after having refused the suggestion from her slacker boyfriend that he do the right thing and marry her.

The attention to detail is phenomenal and the camera never flinches as it shows Maria taking medicine that slows the digestive system before swallowing 500g of cocaine -- divided between 62 latex-wrapped pellets the size of large grapes -- in Colombia, and then washing them in toothpaste after she excretes a few in the airplane toilet and re-ingesting them. It also does not shy away from showing the fatal effects on another mule of a pellet bursting in her stomach and her stomach being cut open to retrieve the rest of the drugs.

A calm, clear-sighted and compelling drama that I would like to see again.

Related link:

+ 'Everyone deserves a decent burial'. "Orlando Tobon has a mission: to identify the bodies of drug mules - and return them to their families. As a film about his work opens, The Independent meets a Colombian hero."

Other links today:

+ Why can't you pay attention anymore? "It may be the greatest irony of the information age: All of that data flying at you by e-mail, instant message, cell phone, voice mail and BlackBerry--it could actually be making you dumber. No one really multitasks. You just spend less time on any one thing."

+ A big breakfast at Burger King. Chain debuts Enormous Omelet Sandwich with more calories, fat than a Whopper.

+ Is the surfeit of culture dulling our senses? "Our home, our city, our world, our life is now a supermarket for the satisfaction of the senses. We could binge on Peking Opera if we wished, or read nothing but Uruguayan poets, or fill up our Netflix queues with films from Japan and Japan alone. I can think of some serious downsides to this wealth..."

+ is the cheeky new social bookmarking tool on the scene to compete with

+ MacDonalds to pay rappers up to $5 every time a song name-checking the Big Mac is played

+ Watch manufacturers nervous as people use their cellphones to tell the time

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