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Maria’s Story


Marias StoryIt is El Salvador, 1989, three years before the end of a brutal civil war that took 75,000 lives. Maria Serrano, wife, mother, and guerrilla leader is on the front lines of the battle for her people and her country. Skirting bullets and mortar attacks, recounting a childhood of poverty and abuse by government troops, suffering the tragic loss of her daughter to enemy fire, and spending precious moments with her husband and surviving daughters, Maria brings viewers to the heart of the fight for a more just society.

This critically acclaimed and award-winning film first aired on the PBS Documentary Series, P.O.V. in 1991. Revolutionary in its making, Maria’s Story broke ground as one of the first documentaries to use small format video. Traveling with only backpacks and solar powered batteries and living on the run with the guerrillas for two months, the filmmakers were able to capture otherwise unattainable footage.  The resulting intimate portrait of Maria and her compatriots reveals a universal tale of love and survival in times of war.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the film is available for the first time on DVD. Included is an update of Maria Serrano and her family twenty years after the end of the civil war.

DVD contains both English and Spanish versions

For more information and to purchase: Maria’s Story

Produced by Pamela Cohen and Catherine M. Ryan, Directed by Monona Wali and Pamela Cohen, Camera John Knoop, Featuring English Voiceovers by Alma Martinez and Edward James Olmos.

Grey Area

Grey-Area-stillI completed Grey Area in 1983.  It was my UCLA Thesis Film for which I had received the Lynn Weston Memorial Scholarship awarded to an outstanding female student.  The film was included in the Black Filmmaker Foundation catalog, and I was able to travel extensively with it to film festivals both in America and abroad.

In 2012, the UCLA Film & Television Archives undertook to find and restore Grey Area (I had lost all prints of it).  Miraculously, they found old negatives at Foto Kem labs  and with funds from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Getty Foundation were able to restore it to a beautiful black and white print.  It was selected to be part of the Festival of Preservation and was screened in March 2013 at UCLA.  It was also selected to be part of the L.A. Rebellion showcase of films that has been travelling throughout the country and internationally, renewing interest in black independent cinema that came out of UCLA in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

From the UCLA Film & Television Archives Festival of Preservation Catalog:

“The title of Monona Wali’s UCLA thesis film, Grey Area, refers to the spaces of compromise that seemingly have to be made to survive in white society. The film revolves around a female African-American reporter for a local television station who must seemingly compromise her political principles to keep her job, just as a former Black Panther Party member gets out of prison, only to realize that the old comrades in the struggle have moved on with their lives.  It is also a pleas for community development in Watts and other Black L.A. neighborhoods, a concern that connects many of the L.A. Rebellion projects.”

For more information visit: UCLA Film & Television Archive

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