MARIA'S STORY, Paula Cohen and Monona Wali's documentary about civil strife in El Salvador, is not only a tribute to Maria Serrano and her comrades, but also to the production crew that filmed on location under very trying conditions.
The film opens in 1988, en route to the guerrilla forces in the northern hills of El Salvador. For many years they have been fighting the US-backed Salvadoran army for land reform, human rights and an end to government repression. The life of Maria Serrano, a 39-year-old peasant and guerrilla
leader, has been transformed by this conflict.
Maria has an extraordinary view of life. She is full of hope for the future which she conveys to all she comes in contact with. She wants a country where one can work, receive an education and be treated fairly in all circumstances. She desires no one to go hungry and that everyone have a roof
over their heads. That is what she is fighting for. Joining Maria are the many thousands who have carried on this battle over the years against great odds.
At the guerrilla encampment Maria educates the people in her group, teaching them the history of their country and the political aspects of their conflict as well as their military objectives. Among the soldiers present are many children, who listen intently. A radio gives them news of the war on
all fronts. Living in the forest with very little supplies, they regularly forage for additional provisions and weapons.
Maria's husband Jose is part of the group. Their warm, close relationship continues throughout their hardships. The love they have for each other is always present. Their young daughter is also with them. Minita, all of 13, is the group's radio operator. She is happy to be with her mother, and
happy to be part of the fight.
As they traverse the countryside, Maria tells the story of the massacres of the past years. On one of their trips they visit the town where they had lived and remember their early life there. Poverty and hardship have been present all their lives. Despite these conditions, Maria's spirit shines
through. Armed with a strong sense of humor, she faces her life with hope and action. Even the death of an older daughter, Cici, who was killed while fighting, does not stop her from continuing to educate, organize and sustain the resistance.
We follow Maria and her comrades into an attack on an enemy position. We see her rally her comrades and comfort the civilian population in the towns and villages she visits. We see her indomitable spirit at work. Maria Serrano is a homegrown heroine of the people.
When filmmakers Cohen and Wali first visited the war-torn country of El Salvador their guide was Maria Serrano. After spending ten days with her they decided she would be the perfect spokesman for her people and the cause they were fighting for. The result is MARIA'S STORY. As the film unfolds,
aided by James Edward Olmos and Alma Martinez's English-language narration, the viewer is transported to the war zone of El Salvador and shares the people's hardships and personal triumphs. The production unit of Camino Film Projects has succeeded in bringing the very human story of one woman's
courage and determination to full flower. (Violence, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: NR
- Review: MARIA'S STORY, Paula Cohen and Monona Wali's documentary about civil strife in El Salvador, is not only a tribute to Maria Serrano and her comrades, but also to the production crew that filmed on location under very trying conditions. The film opens in 1… (more)