By Joel Durston

Gerardo Naranjo’s Miss Bala is making waves in critics’ circles for its thrilling yet gritty depiction of Mexico’s criminal underworld.

It was released in the Un Certain Regard category of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival – a category recognising “original and different” works seeking international recognition.

And since, critics have been taken by the tale of a beauty queen coerced into Mexico’s nefarious world of drugs, prostitution and gang warfare; it has an aggregate reviewers’ score of 81 (out of 100) on Metacritic.

Rolling Stone praised it for being a ‘harrowing tale [which] cuts deep’ and the Los Angeles Times called it a ‘taut vintage thriller’.

Movie Ramblings caught up with the film’s director, Gerardo Naranjo, for a chat on the film’s breakthrough success as it debuts on DVD on these shores.

“The main inspiration [to make the film] was the feeling of fear that I felt was a common thing among many people I knew. I tried to communicate that feeling,” he said.

“I don’t think I want to portray the reality [of the Mexican criminal underworld]; I want to communicate a feeling and I think that’s pretty accurate based on the people I know and what they feel.”

Some of the film’s scenes of gangland face-offs are particularly arresting, all the more so for being filmed on a budget that pales in comparison to Hollywood Blockbusters.

On filming these, Naranjo said: “We did only one take so we had to prepare for around four months. We did all sorts of plans, rehearsals, and tried to put some danger in the making of it, so people would know that if they don’t follow the plan very carefully they would get hurt.”

The film is Naranjo’s biggest and boldest to date, following lively comedy-drama, Malachance, hedonistic tale sex and suicide, Drama/Mex, and lovers-on-the-lam tragedy, I’m Going To Explode.

They are four of the surprisingly plentiful number – to the uninitiated at least – of Mexican feature films. There have been over 130 since the turn of the century, including Rudo y Cursi, Guillermo’s del Toro’s numerous flicks, and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, and Biutiful.

However, Naranjo does not believe there is a strong, unified Mexican cinema movement.

He said: “I don’t think Mexico has a clear state of cinema. They talk about new
waves and so, but I don’t believe in it.

“I think there are about 15 great filmmakers who are very stubborn and courageous, but there are 100 guys trying to make romantic comedies like in America.

“So I am not that optimistic about Mexican cinema. Great movies will come from Mexico,
but that’s due to the specific filmmakers who make them not the industry nor the ambience.”

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.