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Director José Luis Rugeles has nothing but the best intentions with Alias Maria, but he tries a little too hard to show the full horror of being a young girl growing up in the FARC guerrilla movement. Of course there's little joy to be had and mostly despair to feel, but ninety minutes of watching nothing but misery without offering the tiniest shred of hope makes the audience equally miserable. We can do nothing but sit back and cry injustice about the horrors inflicted upon both women and children in the Colombian jungle, so we end up numb to the entire issue by the time the credits start rolling.
Part of our inability to feel for the plight of Maria, the young female protagonist who ends up pregnant in a society where babies are forbidden save for those of the man in charge, is first time actress' Karen Torres own inability to properly emote. It's laudable Rugeles opted for realism by using people who have lived through some of the same ordeals as their characters, but in terms of acting, it simply backfires. Torres' continuing stoic gaze and the few lines bestowed on her character throughout the piece, don't aid us in rooting for her or her unborn child. Like ourselves when watching this film, she simply undergoes everything that happens with little hope of changing her situation for the better. She and the other FARC guerrillas are like the ants Rugeles highlights throughout the piece: little soldiers with no discernible will of their own who fight and die for the only thing they know. In what few moments of reflecting upon their life Rugeles offers Maria and her fellow drones, contemplating a life outside the terrorist movement never seems to be considered a realistic option.
And their lives doesn't count for much as it is. Children are not allowed to be children here. If they can carry a gun, they are soldiers and so they fight. Same rules apply to them as to their older brothers/sisters in arms. Whoever refuses is shot on the spot, no matter their age. Needless to say, we witness quite a lot of death in Alias Maria. Rugeles doesn't go for excessive gore and violence, but there's still a few moments that show or at least suggest enough to make our stomachs turn. Children are obviously not spared. You'd think an organization that sees its losses mount on a daily basis would be happy with whatever new recruits babies eventually offer. But that's not the case, as baby noise proves to great a risk, even in the dense jungle. Rugeles' point that the FARC has no future, and nor do those who grow up in it, is hammered home quite adequately for his purposes, but at the end, we have simply grown as tired of all the suffering as Maria must be. But lucky us, we can simply leave all her misery behind us and go home...
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