Mía Maestro in Grassland

INTERVIEW: Mía Maestro Hopes to Draw Attention to Marijuana Injustices in ‘Grassland’ Film

Conscious Contact Entertainment/Exit 14 Productions

For actress Mía Maestro (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn), telling a story about the injustices of the legal system was something that resonated with her on a personal level. Maestro, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, has spent the last few years visiting inmates in maximum security prisons and juvenile halls where thousands of them have been sentenced to years behind bars for marijuana possession.

According to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, although marijuana arrests have declined in recent years, Latinos and Blacks are still disproportionately arrested for marijuana offenses. A report shows that in the last five years, Latinos made up 71 percent of the arrests.

“I’m aware of what’s happening in our judicial system [with] the racial disparities of our country [and] how much more likely a Black person or a Latino person gets put in jail for marijuana or any other possession or any other crime,” Maestro, 45, told Remezcla during a recent interview about her latest film, Grassland. “It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do this film – to talk about issues like incarceration rates.”

In the film, Maestro plays Sofia, a single Latina mother living in New Jersey in 2008 whose illegal marijuana business is jeopardized when a white police officer moves in next to her and her son. This past weekend, Grassland was the closing film at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival.

Maestro said she was attracted by the “humanity” of her character, a woman doing everything in her power to support her family in any way she can. “The film is so beautifully composed and has so many layers to it,” she said. “We were working with real emotions and real traumas and real issues.”

Grassland is directed by Argentine American filmmaker William Bermudez and Sam Friedman. The story was inspired by Friedman’s own mother who grew marijuana to support the family when his father was out of a job. “It was very deeply personal and dealt with a lot of the fear I had as a kid, not really understanding why I couldn’t have people over at my house,” Friedman said. “A lot of sympathy poured out from that.”

Bermudez added that he and Friedman go into every project together hoping to make something personal. He considers filmmaking an art form that can be “therapeutic” for those involved. “We think that being as vulnerable as we can with our own lives can hopefully inspire other people on the crew and cast and viewers as well,” he said.

Maestro urges people to continue talking about the injustices of marijuana criminalization and to reach out to their local legislators behind some of the strictest laws in the country. For those living in states where marijuana is legal, she suggests people purchase products from dispensary owners who were once incarcerated for possession instead of large marijuana corporations.

“I would support formerly incarcerated people rather than big marijuana,” Maestro said. “There is an element of compassion and empathy with them. Visiting with inmates has changed my life completely. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.”