In this blog, I would like to review two films that I recently watched: Life and Debt and Maria Full of Grace for my seminary’s Race and Media circles.
Life and Debt (directed by: Stephanie Black): Jamaica, home of beautiful beaches, lush scenery, and a carefree lifestyle… carefree to the tourist that is. The average tourist will board a plane to go to this tropical paradise without having any questions asked of them, and then will enjoy their stay in a nice hotel with a “sunshine” guarantee (that if it rains they will get their money back). Yet, below this carefree surface, there is much going on in the world of social justice and peacemaking. Jamaica has very basic schools that would not meet the standards of our North American learning institutions, has low wages, but high inflation, lacks a proper sewage system, and a new hospital has not been built in the country for quite some time. Of course, tourists don’t need to concern themselves with these things, or so they think.
The role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and globalization in general have made it so that farmers are barely able to survive off of the land. Businesses sell American goods at much lower prices and have engaged in unethical farming practices. Many Jamaicans are forced to work in the U.S. because the average Jamaican minimum wage of $33 every two weeks is not enough to feed their family. One commentator in the film makes a comment that those who are in charge don’t really care if the people make ends-meet, all they care about is the bottom line.
The film is very eye opening in terms of power structures, race systems, economic and international development, and the effects of globalization. The role of the “other” is also unavoidable in this film including in the treatment of non-human animals (if you are a meat eater, I hope you have a hardy stomach). Told from a tourists point of view from getting off the plane to boarding again, the film demands the watcher to call to mind what is really happening and our own assumptions of what makes a country “developed” as well as how the North American sense of entitlement is negatively affecting our world.
I give this film 4 stars out of 5.
Maria Full of Grace (written and directed by: Joshua Marston) is a story about an adolescent woman who has trouble with male relationships. This unfortunately leads her into a not-so-healthy romantic relationship with her boyfriend who impregnates her. Forced to provide for her family, Maria becomes a mule for the drug trade – trafficking heroine to and from the United States, until a few scary turns make her rethink what she is actually doing. Eventually, the baby inside of her saves her life as well as makes a way for her to be in a better position than she was before.
Maria Full of Grace is a great film, about an hour and forty minutes in length, explaining some of the main themes that peace studies majors delve into. It looks at ethical considerations, and provides an honest look at power structures and male hierarchy. Those who have a bit of a Catholic understanding might also gain much information from the name of the main character. Sure, Maria is a very common name among many Colombian women, but the theological implications are still implicit.