Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Chicago Film Festival - "Miss Bala"

One of the ways in which I judge a film's success is as I'm watching it for the first time, I think to myself that I want to see this work again and I want to see it soon. By that token alone, Miss Bala is a triumph.

I'll have a full review of this film down the road, but a few words for now. Directed by Gerardo Naranjo, this is a devastating look at the drug wars that have been dominant in Mexico over the past decade. The story involves a young woman named Laura Guerrero (Stephanie Sigman) who lives in Tiujana and dreams of winning the local Miss Baja beauty pageant. She enters the competition, wearing the one nice dress she owns and almost instantly her life is turned upside down, when a terrible bloodbath takes place at a local nightclub at which she is present. A few hitmen from a notorious local drug gang go on a shooting spree and Laura is discovered hiding to stay out of the line of fire. From that moment on, her life is forever intertwined with this gang.

I won't go into too many more details at the present, but suffice it to say that Laura's journey is full of shocking twist and turns. Naranjo (who also co-wrote the script) does a masterful job at keeping his camera in tight, letting the viewer experience Laura's nightmare. The director displays a great talent for giving us many details, so the shocking developments of this story are not played for thrills, but rather are integral to the madness Laura must endure.

Miss Bala (which translates as Miss Bullet) is a beautifully crafted work that gives us a moral center - a young woman who only wants to rise above her plain life - in a world that has gone to hell. Narnajo has stated that one of his primary goals with this film was "to create images that would recreate the smell of violence and turn them into an artistic piece, with a keen spirit." He has succeeded brilliantly.

Miss Bala will be shown at the Chicago International Film Festival at 8:00 PM on Saturday, October 8 and at 8:35 PM on Monday, October 10. It will open in New York on Friday, October 14.

A Canana/Fox International Production, Miss Bala has been selected as Mexico's entrant in the Academy Award competition for Best Foreign Language Film.

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