Meet Gerardo Naranjo – director of MISS BALA

AFI graduate, previous films include Drama/Mex and Voy A Explotar

Meet one of most fiercest and passionate voices in current Mexican cinema.  His fiery spirit dominates and fuels his storytelling which centers on unheard or marginalized voices, and his fresh filmmaking style is unlike any of his contemporaries.  Here I ask him about his latest film, Miss Bala which debuted in Cannes and will be showing at the Toronto Film Festival.  The film is currently rolling out in Mexico’s urban multi-plexes, and its U.S. release by Fox International here in the states is highly anticipated; exact release date unknown.

CC:  What was the reaction at Cannes (both yours and theirs)?

GN: I try to distrust as much as I can the reaction of the people after the first screening.  I feel the ambience of excitement is only one part of the film touching the audience. I think many of my favorite films left me numb after I saw them.  So I take the applause with great joy, but I know the real test in the pass of time. I hope the film has a lasting impression in the audience.

CD: Your previous films, exemplified tremendously in your short in Revolucion share a certain counter, anti, or rebellious theme told in a ferocious voice.  You’ve said before you make films out of frustration, is this what drives you creatively day to day?  Can you imagine ever losing that edge and still make films?   

GN:  I am not very sure what it is that pushes people to do things in a certain way. I guess everybody has a personality even if we don’t use it. I would like to think a movie is an act of honesty, a way to say something around the bullshit. To be straight. I am sure that goes even for any kind of filmmaking the brainless blockbusters  where the film shows a lack of spirit or the ones that do have a soul behind even if the director is shooting just an apple.

CD:  The setting in the film is the vicious drug violence engulfing Mexico via a ‘civilian, a beauty pageant – to show that everyone is affected by the drug war in Mexico.  How are you affected?  Do you feel like you are an outsider looking in?  

GN:  The film is about fear  that I breath around, and I know I share that feeling. That entitled me to shoot the film. The only and main rule was never get into the criminals brain. I was not interested in documenting the way a killer justifies his crimes. That can be interesting exercise. But it wasn’t the case. The idea was to make a film about how criminal activities start transforming the daily life of a normal person.

CC:.  What kind of research did you do for the film?  What gave you the confidence to creatively mine the sketchy innerworkings of crime and corrupt organizations?  

We did a lot of research with bad guys and that process was disgusting. I don’t think I learn anything of real value in that time. Beyond that I saw the way this guys talk and dress. After that the real process was to digest all that ugliness and choose what to show, but I don’t think films should be an art of specificity I believe film should suggest not show.

CD:  You’ve worked with non-professionals/actors with little experience and direct them quite well. Tigrillo in Drama Mex immediately comes to mind.  Sigman was also a relatively neophyte – why did you choose not to cast a recognized name?  What kind of authenticity did Sigman bring? Do you feel you get something different out of nonpros you don’t get out of professionals?   

GN: I am not sure about the way I work, I try to find people who are hungry and ready to sacrifice. At times professional actors are lazy and they think they know one or two things when in fact they have no idea.  So I prefer to keep the ego levels low on set.

CC:.You mentioned in Cannes you feel the seriousness of this film’s subject matter has helped you evolve how you approach film – you also stylistically explore new ground….what is that growth attributed to?  Besides awareness, what role do narco films have in the ongoing real life drug war?

GN:  I felt I wan’t challenging myself by working  and improvising everything. So i decided to do something ultra-planned.Well I hope my film doesn’t fit the mold of narc film. Even if I know we will be labeled like that anyway. The film doesn’t have a single image of drugs, nor the film has any mention to drugs. Mexican melodrama is a disease that contaminates everything. Most of the things I see in Mexico are rotten by the bad use of tone. Films can not change society, at best films can help build an identity, thats why I think mexicans are crazy. If you see one hour of of bad soap opera your brain suffers.  I know a lot of mexicans that see three soap operas everyday.  We are doomed. Ignorance wins terrain everyday.

Check out trailer:  

Follow Miss Bala on Twitter @missbalafilm

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