Vancity Theatre
Miss Bala

113 minutes, Mexico, 2011, dir. Gerardo Naranjo
Spanish with English subtitles

Dates and Venue 3, 4, 5, 8 & 9 August 2012, 8.30pm | Vancouver International Film Festival & Centre, 1181 Seymour St

Reviewer John Jane

Miss Bala is the harrowing story of a 23-year-old daughter of a Tijuana clothing merchant who enters a beauty pageant to help her family pay off some outstanding debts. She then comes to realize that her good looks are as much of a curse as a blessing.

The film is loosely based on the actual events that involved Mexican beauty queen Laura Zúñiga. In Gerardo Naranjo’s version, Laura Guerrero is a persistently passive protagonist (a touch of Naranjo’s imposed irony here: the last name translates to ‘warrior’) who witnesses a shoot-up at a nightclub, then gets kidnapped by the leader of a local drug cartel.

Noe Hernandez is bang on in his portrayal of brutal drug kingpin Lino Valdez. He enlists the naïve Laura as a reluctant courier, thus, dragging her into a downward spiral of murder, smuggling and police corruption. Her rewards are the guaranteed safety of her father and younger brother and the crown of Miss Baja California, rigged as a result of the cartel pulling strings with pageant organisers.

Naranjo narrates this account of vicious crime and cancerous corruption that impacts every aspect of Mexican society through the eyes of an attractive, innocent woman who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Former model Stephanie Sigman plays Laura who is both tacit victim and unwilling accomplice. We see her physically stumble through just about every scene as the moral compass in a world gone mad.

© 2012 John Jane