Go see Miss Bala


Until recently, the party line of the Mexican government has been that every one of the tens of thousands of people murdered here in the past few years has been somehow involved in drug trafficking. The implication was that so many murders were not such bad thing; it was simply delinquents killing other delinquents. We should have just been saying good riddance to bad rubbish. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the government held hard and fast to this story until it became untenable to continue to spew it convincingly.

Many of the people murdered are complete innocents. For example, each time I have visited Ciudad Juárez, the murder victims announced in the morning papers tend to be waitresses in bars, or guys who work in taco stands, employed by people who have refused or neglected to pay extortion money to gangsters. The thugs cannot kill the owners of the bars or taco joints -- that would be throttling the goose with the golden eggs. If they kill the employees, the narcos send what they feel is an appropriate message.


There is also a vast category of people who get caught up in drug trafficking by accident or chance. They are given two choices by the drug traffickers to whom they fall prey: participate or get killed. An extroardinary film about one such person just opened in Mexico. Directed by Gerardo Naranja, from a script he wrote with Mauricio Katz, it is called Miss Bala and stars the remarkable  Stephanie Sigman as a girl who inadvertently walks into a very nasty business.

It's the best Mexican film I have seen in quite a while. I don't want to oversell it or give too much away, but what is most brilliant about it is the way it depicts its grisly and violent milieu in an understated, matter-of-fact way.

Miss Bala is being scheduled at important film festivals around the world. It was shown last week at the Toronto Film Festival, will be on at the New York Film Festival on October 1 and October 2, and at the London Film Festival October 19, 20 and 22. International distribution cannot be far behind. If you are in Mexico, see it now; if not, watch for it at a theatre near you or on Netflix. I can't recommend it strongly enough.