MISS BALA. Starring Stephanie Sigman, Juan Carlos Galvan. Directed by Gerardo Naranjo. Rated MA 15+ (strong coarse language). 108 mins.
Mexico’s drug wars are one of the most desperate situations as well as violent in recent times. The cartels struggle for control. There are no scruples in the killings which have led to some Mexican cities having the highest murder rates in the world. This is the background for so many films, Mexican like the excellent Backyard or American films like Bordertown and Oliver Stone’s ugly Savages.
We are taken into Baja California and Tijuana and the surrounding countryside. Minor drug criminals are fighting one another as well as the police. While life can go on as normal, it may seem inevitable that it can become entangled with the drug wars.
Two young girls decide to audition for the Miss Bala competition. They go to a club afterwards where there is a raid and killings. One of the young women, Laura (Stephanie Sigman) , who supports her father and younger brother at home, is taken by the chief thug. While there had been glimpses of the Beauty Contest, most of the film focuses on the thug and his infatuation with the girl and his using her to set up enemies. She tries to escape but is forced to go along with his plans even while being questioned by the police.
There is an irony that the thug is able to manipulate the result of the competition and, despite no evidence that she has presented well, she is named as Miss Bala. Trying to keep out of the limelight, trying to save her family, wanting to be honest but forced into even more set-ups and a car trip to San Diego to deliver drug money, she is finally captured and accused of being part of the gang. She is disposable by both the cartel and the police.
The real-life situations are very grim – and this film tells a story that reinforces the media headlines and stories.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out 13th Decemeber