The story of Maya feels at first like one we’ve heard before. Girl has a difficult home life, girl uses the internet to escape home life, girl puts her trust in someone untrustworthy, and we all learn from her mistakes. What this particular telling of the story does differently though is it truly puts you in the shoes of the lead character, Maya, played by Isabella Feliciana, and makes you think, would I have done the same?
I found myself asking this question multiple times throughout viewing this film. Maya is the story of a young girl with a difficult home life who uses the comfort of a man she meets on the internet to escape it. Though this man starts by coming across as her savior, he eventually abuses her and trafficks her out.
Maya is produced by Artists for Change, a non-profit using film to create awareness and change. The cast that brings this message to life in Maya includes Patricia Velasquez (The Mummy Returns, Arrested Development), Isabella Feliciana (Killer Grades), Rumer Willis (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Billy Budnick (Frank and Penelope) Rena Owen (The Orville, Siren), Anthony Montgomery (General Hospital, Star Trek: Enterprise), Atiana De La Hoya (The Kardashians, Meet the Barkers), Basilio Cerdan Jr., (Tiktok), Gian Franco Rodriquez (Halston) and more.
Maya the film touches on various timely topics in our society, and in doing so it shows us that no one issue can be solved without acknowledging the power of the others. We watch Maya’s home life deteriorate with a drunk mother in an abusive relationship, and we see her turn to social media for solace and comfort. As she finds that comfort in a stranger online, you can feel the ominousness of the situation and you think, who would do that? Don’t we as a society know better by now?
But then, taking a step back, we realize, haven’t we all used the internet as a band aid or escape from reality in some way? And don’t we think, what’s the harm in this, if it gives us momentary comfort. One thing this film does well is it shows the reality we don’t want to see, and it says, this happens whether we want to believe it or not.
Click above to view trailer on Youtube or click HERE.
Maya and her mother, Camila, played adeptly by Patricia Velasquez, are interesting foils of each other. As Maya loses her faith and finds herself in a more and more difficult situation, her mother is slowly pulling herself together. The extreme situation she finds herself in after losing her daughter and suffering a close call with an overdose gives her the needed push to seek out help. And it is not easy.
You watch Camila wrestling with the idea of AA and other resources offered in the hospital. It is only after a one on one conversation with recovering addict Sandy, played by Rena Owen, that she gives recovery a chance. And this feels like one of the most real moments in the film. Programs like AA are there to help but until a victim feels the humanity behind it, most won’t take that first step and use the program to its fullest potential.
One thing I found myself thinking about throughout the film is what makes Maya different from her friends. A girlfriend from school Cassie, played by Sidney Nicole Rogers, is living with a foster family, and local nerdy boy Ezekiel, played by Basilio Cerdan Jr., gets kicked out of his home any time his mother has her boyfriend over. While it is clear these characters have tough lives of their own, they do not fall prey in the same way Maya does.
And Maya does not seem like your stereotypical victim. From the first time she meets our antagonist, Ray, played by Billy Budinich, she is weary of him. “Why did you use old pictures?” she asks. She is not the damsel you would expect. Ray uses every classic tactic in the book, from convincing her he was her saviour, to threatening suicide when she wants to leave him, feeding into her guilt. This shows just how intensely her home life has affected her judgment, using any escape she can find, even one that has red flags of its own. This film puts a unique take on the situation by making Maya the film more realistic, and that will sit with a young audience long after the film is over.
For Help: National Human Trafficking Hotline
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week. Languages: English, Spanish.
This film does a fantastic job of showing how any one social issue of the day cannot be treated as a standalone problem. Each issue, from alcoholism to abuse to online predators, are compounded on top of each other to create a web of obstacles that have to be tackled together to solve the systemic problems they create.
What stuck with me the most at the end of this film is something I was not fully expecting. I felt inspired. This film does a great job of setting up all of the layers of a problem that should make you feel overwhelmed, and instead leaves you with the message that no matter how bad the situation, you can get yourself and those you love out of it and you do not have to do it alone. It make you feel overwhelmed, and instead leaves you with the message that no matter how bad the situation, you can get yourself and those you love out of it and you do not have to do it alone. It shows you how to peel away at those layers to make a better life.
For More information on the Film: Click HERE
Article Disclaimer; Suzanne "Suzee" Ordas Curry is a producer of this film and on the Board of Artists for Change.