Miss Bala movie provides look at Mexican drug war through eyes of a beauty queen
Miss Bala won't be the most popular movie you ever see. It probably won't break box office records. But if you're looking for the sort of movie that turns an idea on its head, that challenges what you think you know about the Mexican Drug Wars, Miss Bala is it.
Nearly 50,000 people are estimated to have been killed in Mexico's drug war since 2006, and there seems to be no end in sight.
A new film, Miss Bala is an artful, riveting depiction of that war. But it isn’t the good guys-bad guys shoot-em-up you might expect.
Instead, the story is told through the eyes of an innocent bystander: a beauty pageant contestant who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. She’s kidnapped by a gang leader and has no choice but to become his accomplice.
Making a realistic film about drug gangs is a dangerous venture.
“When we shot the film we said it was a romantic comedy,” said the film’s co-writer and director, Gerardo Naranjo. “It had a different name, Beautiful Maria.”
In the wake of the film’s release, Naranjo is staying in the United States.
Only “in a country where the law and justice work in such mysterious ways, [can] those two worlds join together — the world of criminality and the world of beauty queens,” Naranjo said.
The idea is based on a true story of a beauty queen arrested with a group of suspected gang members, and later released without charges. It’s an example of how all of Mexican society is being pulled into the conflict.
“There is no social institution which will survive the power of the criminals. The movie has a theory: there are no good guys anymore. Even if you are good, you can’t rebel against this power," Naranjo said.
Video: A scene from Miss Bala
PRI's Peabody Award-winning "Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen" from WNYC is public radio's smart and surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt Andersen introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Life is busy -- so let "Studio 360" steer you to the must-see movie this weekend, the next book for your nightstand