‘Miss Bala’ Director Catherine Hardwicke on Cartel Warfare, Feminism and Our Obsession with Borders

Earlier this month, during one of LA’s rare cold and rainy weekends, I had the pleasure of interviewing the stars and directors of Miss Bala– a loose remake of the 2011 film of the same name, which itself was “based on true events” regarding the case of Laura Zúñiga, a beauty pageant contestant who was pulled over in a truck full of cartel members and ammunition on her way to represent Mexico in the Miss International 2009 pageant.

For director Catherine Hardwicke (13, Twilight), the remake was a chance to respond to a larger cultural conversation we’re having today.  By turning the protagonist from a Mexican beauty queen to Gloria Meyer (Gina Rodriguez), an American makeup artist visiting a friend in Baja, Hardwicke was able to invoke ideas of globalism, the agency of the “everywoman” and our morbid fascination with border violence. When Gloria’s friend is kidnapped, the young woman is forced into the arms of a cartel leader– played by Sesame Street’s Ismael Cruz Córdova– and smuggle laundered money across the border in an attempt to extricate herself from the long arms of the DEA and gang warfare.

Catherine Hardwicke:

  • How a film centering around violent Mexican cartel members forcing an American woman to smuggle drugs and money into the US would be received in today’s cultural climate.
  •  Why stories about border clashes hold a special place in Catherine’s heart.
  • The differences between the original film and the remake.
  • What those differences say about audiences’ today: we’re much more interested in watching female characters evolve with agency even under the most horrendous situations.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Gloria (Gina Rodriguez) finds a power she never knew she had when she is drawn into a dangerous world of cross-border crime. Surviving will require all of her cunning, inventiveness, and strength.