Friday, 25 May 2012

Miss Bala

A gutsy, loud and brutal film that tells the story of 23 year old working class Lara a Mexican girl who along with her friend Suzu enters a local beauty contest called the Miss Bala California Pageant hoping to earn some much needed money. When the pair visit a night club they find themselves caught in the crossfire of local drug gang feud which results in a devastating massacre, killing most of the people in the club including Suzu. When Lara goes to the police as a witness she is handed back to the gang and becomes engulfed in the corrupt underworld of Mexican gangs and drug cartels much against her will.

The loverly Stephanie Sigman plays Lara.

Gang violence, class and corruption are issues that are often addressed in Latin American cinema and Miss Bala (2012) is no exception. A gripping and bold thriller from director and writer Gerardo Naranjo who portrays his story, which is loosely based on a series of real-life events surrounding a beauty pageant scandal and law enforcement corruption, through the eyes of our unwilling heroine played by former model Stephanie Sigman who gives a credible performance as Lara. My only problem with the film is that it tends to be a little disjointed at times leaving the viewer a bit mystified as too who’s who.

I'm Gonna Explode.
Although this was Mexico’s 2012’s official Academy Awards entry its probably not Naranjo’s best known film. That got to be his sharp 2008 Mexican thriller I’m Gonna Explode that took for its inspiration such films as Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Terrence Malick’s Badlands (1973). Filmed in the historic city of Guanajuato, a Word Heritage site, it tells the story of Roman (Juan Pablo de Santiago) and Maru (Maria Deschamps), two troubled teenagers attempting an impossible rebellion against the adult world. Maru, a sullen pouting 15-year-old loner, meets Roman, the reckless son of a corrupt right-wing politician. United by their desire to fight the apathy that they feel surrounding them, the two embark on a revolt against everything and everyone when they decide to runaway to be free of other people’s expectations and demands. With the police and their parents in hot pursuit, this leads them to a new intimacy and the discovery of their sexuality, which in turn unites and confuses them.

It was produced by Gael Garcia Bernal (Amores perros 2000, Bad Education 2004, Motorcycle Diaries 2004, Babel 2006) and Diego Luna (Milk 2008, Rudo Cursi 2008) the film was the breakout winner at 2009’s Guadalajara Film Festival, the national showcase for Mexican film. Naranjo describes this movie as ‘a diary of ideas with music, written word and internal dialogue’ As with a great deal of modern Mexican cinema, this film is well worth seeing, with two young stars that hold your attention throughout, superb shooting and cutting, along with a soundtrack that beautifully frames and enriches your enjoyment of the screen images.  

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