Acclaimed Miss Bala articulates drug trafficking narrative

From the seedy underworld of Mexico to the spiritual monasteries of Algeria, the Alan Lutkus International Film Series presents Geneseo students with a unique opportunity for cultural enlightenment through film.

On Thursday Oct. 26 in Newton 202, the IFS screened its second film of the semester, Miss Bala. This critically acclaimed Mexican film, which deals with a woman who becomes ensnared with a drug cartel, was quietly released in 2011 and has slowly trickled into prominence since.

Before the film began, associate professor of Spanish and Chair of the Languages and Literatures Department Rose McEwen provided a brief introduction. McEwen gave statistics on levels of homicide in Mexico: Between 2006 and 2010, she said, there have been 34,000 homicides with approximately 84 percent of those were related to drug violence.

McEwen also said that high incidences are pointed toward women. Women face not only murder, but mutilation, rape and torture.

Miss Bala follows Laura Guerrero (Stephanie Sigman), a young woman who hopes to become a beauty pageant queen. She crosses paths with drug traffickers, and they force her to become a pawn in their illicit activities.

“I wanted to show how difficult it is to see from a point of view of a strong woman who is caught in the middle of an impossible situation,” McEwen said. According to McEwen, all three films this semester deal with women’s plights in the face of adversity.

Miss Bala certainly fits the criteria. Guerrero is forced to put her life at risk as she faces gunfire, constant threats toward her family and drug lords that sexually violate her. While the themes of drug trafficking and abuse toward women are powerful on their own, director Gerardo Naranjo helps them resonate more through his filmmaking.

Naranjo shoots the film in aggravatingly long takes. Rather than crosscutting scenes together, the camera fluidly moves throughout the sleazy settings. It heightens the realism of situations Guerrero faces and makes the film exhilarating, terrifying and thought provoking.

The gritty film and the IFS as a whole should be appreciated as art, but they also represent an inclusion of cultural perspectives on campus. According to McEwen, that is the purpose of the IFS: It gives students worldly experiences without having to leave the classroom.

“It is very difficult to be a citizen of the world if you don’t experience the world on its own terms,” McEwen said.