“My aim was to create a film that communicates a certain fear that I sense in the air,” said Gerardo Naranjo, the director of Miss Bala, which will be featured at Cinema du Parc’s upcoming New Mexican Film Week.
Trying to show the Mexican crime world from the view of an outsider, Naranjo crafted the movie around Laura Guerrero, an innocent young woman desperate to escape poverty. She appears in nearly every frame of the film—which starts when she and a friend try out for an upcoming beauty contest.
They are accepted into the pageant and go clubbing to celebrate. But the seedy club is attacked by a gang. Laura manages to escape, and this throws her down the rabbit hole. She is caught by the crooked police and brought back to the gang. Laura’s desperate to escape, until a big wad of cash ends up in her hands and things get morally complicated for the would-be beauty queen.
“The film had to talk through images […] I distrust words because words are the element our society found to lie to each other,” Naranjo said.
By following a meek and introverted main character who reacts to the world around her more than she actively engages it, the director is able to highlight Mexico as a character unto itself.
“Several films have been made about Mexico’s drug war,” said Naranjo. “But they left me dissatisfied. Because the police can no longer protect people, the drug lords are often seen as heroes and Robin Hoods.”
Issues like widespread poverty and a lack of education provide fertile ground for recruiting members to the drug cartels. In Mexico, an estimated 30 million people over the age of 15 do not have basic reading, writing and math skills. There are also 50 million who live on less than $2 a day.
The stunning and always surprising Miss Bala opens The New Mexican Film Week this Friday as one of six films that will be screened.
Some of the other movies are Presumed Guilty, about a man caught in a legal system where the wrongly accused have to prove themselves innocent in order to walk free. It was the highest-grossing documentary in Mexican film history and boasts the honour of having been so controversial it was banned by the Mexican government.
The films range from jarring to quirky, as seen with Marimbas From Hell, about a musician who hits a dead end when his instrument is considered old-fashioned. He then meets a pioneer of the heavy metal Guatemalan underground and they join forces to create the eponymous Marimbas From Hell, taking the population by storm.
The New Mexican Film Week concludes on Feb. 9, when the special programming at du Parc shifts from hot and seedy to old and creepy, with a three-week tribute to Alfred Hitchcock―just in time for Valentine’s Day.
The New Mexican Film week takes places Feb. 3 to 9 at Cinema du Parc (3575 Park Ave.) Miss Bala is playing on Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. For more information, check out www.cinemaduparc.com.