Monday, March 12, 2012

Miss Bala

Miss Bala (2011, Mexico, Gerardo Naranjo)

Gerardo Naranjo’s remarkable Miss Bala can perfectly be described by the phrase “wrong place, wrong time”. Unfortunately, in the case of Laura Guerrero (Stephanie Sigman), her presence at such a place manages to turn her life into a nightmare hours after she wins a dream spot in the Miss Baja beauty pageant.

Miss Bala Laura

Laura only manages to get an audition thanks to her friend Suzu (Lakshmi Picazo). Later that night, Laura goes to a party to find Suzu but comes across cartel members who secretly enter through the washroom.

Miss Bala party

Laura is spared by the gang leader Lino (Noe Hernandez) but Suzu disappears and several people at the party are killed. Suzu’s absence also causes Laura to lose her spot in the pageant so Laura is desperate to find her friend.

Miss Bala Police car

Laura finds a police officer and honestly tells him about the previous night’s happenings. However, the officer leads Laura to the gangsters and Lino.

Miss Bala Lino

Lino has feelings for Laura and uses her as a pawn in his operations. In return, he gets Laura her spot spot back in the beauty contest.

miss bala laura contest number

Laura pays a heavy price for finally realizing her pageant dream because her life becomes a living nightmare in which the cartel shuttle her from location to location, including border crossings. The cartel is omnipresent and its tentacles infiltrate every aspect of society around Laura. As a result, everyone that Laura reaches out to for help is either captured or eliminated by the cartel.

Miss Bala ongoing war

The film is loosely based on a real life story and shows how a constant war between police and criminals forces innocent people to choose sides and even conduct illegal operations. Choosing sides also involves acting as an informer and providing tips either for money or pure survival. With such an uncertain environment, it is not a surprize that many meetings are conducted away from plain view, either in the confines of a car or in a dark room. Naranjo smartly depicts this by framing many critical transactions in a car, including Lino’s rape of Laura.

Miss Bala opening credits

The opening credits of the film shows an interesting poster collage of models and beauty contest winners. However, Naranjo also places the word “Fashion victim” on the wall as a nod towards the inspiration for the film’s story. Also, as noted by Satish Naidu, the collage contains a picture of Priyanka Chopra’s character from Madhur Bhandarkar’s film Fashion.

Miss Bala poster collage

This placement is not a coincidence as Laura’s profile evokes Priyanka Chopra’s character from Fashion. Both characters can rightly be called fashion victims and are beautiful women whose lives are effected by the crime and corruption around them.

miss bala laura miss baja
miss bala laura miss baja contest


Sam Juliano said...

I'm not sure why I didn't see this when it opened here back in January, though I'm thinking I was still winding up 2011 movie going and the unraveling of the awards. I did remember some had said it was a tense and paranoia infused film, and for the most part the reviews were positive. After just reading over your typically excellent prose and layout I realize this is one I must keep an eye out for when and if it makes it's return.

Sachin said...

It is indeed worth seeing Sam although I outlined a good portion of the story so I hope I didn't ruin it for you :)

Thanks for your comment & visit Sam.

Satish Naidu said...

The wonder of it is how the frame becomes so claustrophobic, almost like the time you are sitting on the rear seat of a bike holding something big, say a carrom board, which's basically obstructing your vision. It is a classic moment of anxiety.
Here in Miss Bala almost everything is happening off-screen, literally and figuratively, and the resultant tension is almost unbearable. I watched the film over a good 4 hours. Trust me, I needed that time.

Sachin said...

Ha wonderful analogy Satish regarding the restricted view. A majority of the scenes are in confined space so that certainly adds to that anxiety. I have to say a second viewing was a different experience as knowing how things would turn out allowed me to relax and let the nightmare unfold. Also, I am glad quite a few of the scenes take place in daylight as the light helped release some of the tension for me.

I contrast to this Kinatay. In that film, mostly everything takes place in night time and restricted light and that adds to the claustrophobic feeling. Which is why I think some people who saw it in a cinema had such a strong dislike to it as they could not turn it off. I needed to switch Kinatay off and take my time to finish it. So I understand what you mean by taking time to finish Miss Bala