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The Passion of María Elena
A Film by Mercedes Moncada Rodriguez
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When María Elena's 3-year-old son Jorge is killed in a hit-and-run accident in Chihuahua, Mexico, she begins a quest for justice that brings her face to face with racism, corruption, and the traditional attitudes of her community.

María Elena is indigenous - a Rarámuri - and Marisela, the driver who killed her son, is 'white.' María Elena must therefore face not only an official justice system that discriminates against her, but also the whispers of those in her remote mountain community who regard her with suspicion because she is a divorced woman who moved to the city. Some go so far as to blame her for Jorge's death.

This moving story of grief and healing, injustice and cultural identity is recounted through scenes with María Elena, her parents, other family members, and friends, plus her lawyer and a Human Rights Commission representative.

Utilizing a sensitive, non-intrusive style that respects the Rarámuri people and their way of life, sociologist and debut director Mercedes Moncada enables us gradually to not only understand the clashes of opposing worldviews, but also to appreciate the nature of Rarámuri beliefs. And we see that María Elena, despite so many apparent disadvantages, has enormous spiritual resources to draw upon, even in the midst of such a great tragedy.

"[A] bracing look at violence and justice."—New York Times

"Skillfully captures the quotidian and extraordinary sorrows and joys of the Rarámuri. Captivating footage of... gender dynamics [and] deft camerawork capture[s] the differences in pacing, sounds, and social geography of urban and rural life [to] offer an engaging starting point for a discussion about racism and sexism as well as the meanings of ethnic and gender identities."—The Americas: A Quarterly Journal of Inter-American Cultural History

"A true account of tragedy, grief and injustice that reflects on complex views with eloquent simplicity and heartfelt directness."—Variety

"Poetic... The film's strength comes from its sensitivity and luminous imagery. When justice finally arrives for María Elena, it is on terms that defy Western sensibilities." —The Village Voice

"Recommended! Both moving and eye opening in a cultural studies sense. The production values are very high."—Educational Media Reviews Online

2003 Sundance Film Festival
Best Documentary, 2003 Sao Paulo Film Festival
Best Mexican Feature, 2003 Guadalajara Film Festival

76 minutes / color
Release: 2004
Copyright: 2003
Sale: $398

Subject areas:
Anthropology, Criminal Justice, Cultural Anthropology, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America, Law, Mexico, Native People, Race and Racism, US & Canadian Broadcast Rights, Women's Studies

Related Titles:
Café: This intimate documentary follows an indiginous Mexican family through one critical year of life

Silvestre Pantaleón: The story of an elderly man from the Nahuatl-speaking village of San Agustin Oapan, Mexico.

The Inheritors: At early age children begin to work in the Mexican countryside. This is a portrait of theirs lives and their daily struggle for survival.

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