Alumnus examines drug trade


While the film’s star shuffled nervously beside him, occasionally acknowledging compliments after a Monday evening advance screening, writer and director Joshua Marston, AM’94, answered questions and regaled the crowded Old Town, Chicago, theater with tales of creating his first feature-length film, Maria Full of Grace. The movie follows a 17-year-old Colombian girl (played by Catalina Sandino Moreno) who becomes a drug mule to escape her small-town life.

Marston, who studied political science at Chicago (he spotted an old professor in Monday’s audience), researched the film by hanging out at airport customs offices, where police arrested mules as young as 12 and as old as 84. He also spent time in New York’s Little Colombia neighborhood and in Colombia itself. Though filming had to shift to Ecuador when political violence prevented the crew from securing production insurance, Marston told Monday’s gathering that what scared him most was having the “audacity” as an American to try his hand at a Colombian film.

But he’s already attracted authentic praise—Colombia’s first lady invited him to screen it twice for assembled dignitaries, and the country purchased a print for educational purposes. In June a 17-year-old Columbian boy called Marston to say he had been scheduled to travel as a mule but the movie changed his mind. International critics have also hailed the film, which won awards at the Seattle, Berlin, and Sundance film festivals.


Photo: writer and director Joshua Marston, AM'94, and actress Catalina Sandino Moreno on the set of Maria Full of Grace (bottom).

July 28, 2004