Producer of various film media including documentaries, short films, public service announcements and digital content, Maria Cuomo Cole is as prolific as they come. But, it is the pioneering nature of her work that makes it truly noteworthy, as each film has been crafted with thoughtful purpose, lending itself to the extraordinary cause of raising awareness around timely and critical social issues.
Case in point: Maria’s latest work, an investigative documentary entitled The Hunting Ground, tracks the alarming increase in rape crimes on college campuses while also exposing the institutional cover-ups involved. But Maria doesn’t stop there. The film also delves into the devastating human impact these crimes have triggered, and the suffering for the families involved.
Then there was The Invisible Bar, which tackled the U.S. Military, revealing the widespread presence of rape and sexual violence within it. The film’s subject matter was groundbreaking to say the least, as many victims had tried to seek justice but were stifled through various tactics. Released in theaters last year, the documentary won the Audience Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
And a year prior to that, Maria’s documentary Living for 32, focused on the lives of the 32 victims in the tragic Virginia Tech shooting, shedding light on serious problems surrounding gun safety in our country. The film also premiered at Sundance, and it went on to be short-listed for an Academy Award nomination.
All three films reveal sensitive and terrifying topics that take a certain amount of guts to confront. But as Maria told More Magazine this month, she’s more than willing to accept the challenge. “I wake up every day and feel a sense of appreciation and responsibility. We’re here – let’s get to it.”
The Cuomo family has always possessed a strong sense of drive and determination. Maria’s grandparents, Andrea and Immocolata Cuomo (whose immigration to the U.S. by way of Nocera Inferiore and Campania exhibits a strong will in and of itself) owned and operated a store in South Jamaica, a tough, working-class community in the Queens borough of New York. And her father Mario is the former Governor of New York (not to mention one of the most well-known and highly regarded politicians in this country). And then there are her four siblings, each accomplished in their own right: The new Governor of New York, an attorney, a journalist, and a physician.
But truly, it’s her mother, Matilda Raffa Cuomo, a woman who spent 60 years with Mario until his death this past January, who Maria seems to truly take her cue. Like her daughter, Matilda dedicated her time and energy to giving the voiceless a voice. As founder of Mentoring USA, a social outreach program that provides mentors to young foster, homeless and immigrant children in New York City, Matilda helped to create an avenue for struggling kids to discover and form their identity under positive guidance.
Today, Maria carries on this important work, serving as Director of the Board for Mentoring USA. And yet, she also extends her mother’s efforts, serving as Chair of a newer initiative entitled HELP USA, an organization affiliated with Mentoring USA that develops housing for homeless and low-income families, including victims of domestic violence and veterans.
If that’s not inspiration come to fruition, Maria’s next film project quite literally takes her mother’s lead: The documentary will explore prominent Americans as they reflect on their own personal mentors.
Like mother, like daughter.