Maria’s Story (trailer & info)

Maria’s Story

A documentary portrait of love and survival in El Salvador’s Civil War.

Maria's Story“Documentary at its most illuminating and succinct”
–Los Angeles Times

“As the camera jiggles and the bullets fly one comes as close to combat as one will ever get in the movie theater.”
–San Francisco Examiner

“An emotionally powerful film which communicates from the heart.”
–San Francisco Bay Times

Produced by Catherine Ryan and Pamela Cohen, Camino Film Projects.
Short listed for an Academy Award Nomination for Best Documentary.
Multiple “Best Documentary”film festival awards.
Broadcast on POV, the prestigious non-fiction PBS series.


The politically ground-breaking film was cited as the single most important piece of media leading to ending the US funding of the Civil War in El Salvador and the ceasefire and negotiations which ended the war.
The film was also technologically ground-breaking, the first documentary ever to go from a consumer video format all the way to 16mm film for theatrical release and broadcast – thus helping create a new paradigm for grassroots documentary production and distribution.

Click here to view complete documentary. 


Click for full Text


“… a genuinely heartening and searing account”

-Regina Hackett. Art Critic. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 11,1991

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“…straightforward …  captures the most human elements of civil war without sentimentalizing the fighters or trivializing their daily struggle to survive …… the film ends by reaffirming the power of art to express love in the most tryannical of settings.”

-Steven Mikulan, LA Weekly

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“Maria’s Story and its role in the technological history of documentary filmmaking” article in  (click to read)

About Maria’s Story and the Kino-Eye article:   We are so proud of what we accomplished with this documentary in terms of helping to end the civil war in El Salvador. But as documentary film makers we are also proud of our paradigm-shattering use of new technologies to make it.  After having failed with a 16mm shoot due to the challenging logistics of filming during a war in the guerilla controlled zones of control in war-torn El Salvador, we returned with a Video8 camera, the smallest workable consumer video camcorder.  It is hard to realise it today, but in fact no documentary had ever been made this way before.  Maria’s Story was the first documentary ever to go from a small-format video acquisition all the way to film, which back then was the only (and best) viable format for theatrical distribution and exhibition.

Then, to go beyond that to being short-listed for an Academy Award, well, not bad for the little format that could.

BTW – another breakthrough was the solar charger which John Knoop (our  talented, visionary, and courageous cinematographer) invented for this film, was also ground-breaking for video technology.  In preparing for travelling by foot and donkey in the mountains of El Salvador, he had to create a lite weight solar charger that would allow for the 6 weeks of production under war zone conditions with no access to power or additional supply, at a time when no such thing existed commercially.

Thanks John!  Well done!

“…simple, forthright and effective …”  –NY Newsday, (click article for full text)

“gritty …. harrowing … eloquent”  –Seattle Times, (click article for full text)

Peasant woman_MS review_p1

“… takes a subject that’s been explored in countless previous documentaries, and gives it an emotional spin it never had before” –San Francisco Chronicle, (click article to read full text)

Maria's Story review_EastBayGuardian_v2

“… humanizes El Salvador’s Revolutionary FMLN … compelling … suffused with a sense of hope …” –East Bay Guardian, (click article to read all)

Maria's Story_Guardian

“tender and poignant … earthy and impassioned” –Guardian,  (click article to read all)

“What emerges is a portrait of an engaging, strong woman.” — Detroit Free Press, April 10, 1991, (click to read all)

Maria's story_face2face_v2

“… one of the real faces that usually get lost in newspaper stories … a passionate film about one peasant deeply involved in her fight for a better life … compelling.” –Judy Stone, SF Chronicle, 3.22.1991, (click on article to read the full text.)

Fighting_MS review_Examiner_v2

“… remarkable footage. The viewer can’t help but sense the danger and threat that the guerrillas must live with everyday … a portrait of a brave soul admirably struggling to overcome the oppression under which she was unluckily born.” –San Francisco Examiner, (click article to read all)


“… gives a face to the enemy. It’s a face that many Americans –and certainly many American politicians – would prefer that vewers not see. That is precisely why this documentary was made and why it is so very effective…” –Hollywood Reporter, Aug. 13, 1991, (click article to read all)

“In selecting their subject, the filmmakers have chosen shrewdly and brilliantly. Physically, Maria is squat and lumpy, but her sense of mission transforms her, and ambling among the people in one small village, joshing and shaking hands, she becomes a figure of almost mythic potency, a potato-sack Joan of Arc priming her troops for the coming battle. Gradually, the film becomes something more than a document of political struggle; it becomes a movie about rising to the call of greatness.”  —Washington Post review, June 28, 1991,  – click here for entire review

“… documentary at its most illuminating and succinct…”  —LA Times, Dec 7, 1990, for full review click here.

Maria’s Story evokes memories and tears”  – review in El Tecolote, May 21, 2010, the 10 year anniversary of release of the film:  “The movie had hardly begun when I started to feel the tears trickling down my cheeks, because this movie is an expression of love for humanity, for the dreams of social justice and for a past of hopes and ideals that have yet to come to fruition.”     – click here for entire review

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