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Miss Bala

Directed by Gerardo Naranjo

Mexico, 2011

Cornerhouse, 29 October 2011

Miss Bala

This is a fine crime film which approaches its subject – gang violence in contemporary Mexico – from quite an unusual angle.

A pretty girl enters a beauty contest along with her friend, but the two are parted in a nightclub when it is raided by the police.  In trying to find her friend, Laura (a debut role for Stephanie Sigman, who is excellent) is drawn into a world of violence, double-crosses and drug deals gone bad, and it seems that in Mexico some gangs battle against the state.  They take the War on Drugs at face value, as a declaration of intent.

What is fascinating about the film is that it doesn’t tell Laura’s story, not really, even though the focus falls on her.  Instead, she is like a thread in a labyrinth: it is where she takes us, what happens around her, which is important.  It is what she reveals about Mexican society.  We are shown corrupt police officers, criminal gangs that are in essence militia, endemic venality, weakness and hypocrisy.  The people she comes across are so much water moving in water, and perhaps Laura could be described in this way also.