Thriller ‘Miss Bala’ Explores Cultural Identity At The Border, And Breaks Industry Norms

Sony hired several women to run the crew, including director Catherine Hardwicke who was interested in the idea of “otherness” experienced by people in the borderland.

By Laura RiceFebruary 1, 2019 1:19 pm,

Catherine Hardwicke is director of “Miss Bala,” an action film inspired by the true story of Laura Zúñiga, a Mexican beauty pageant contestant who was kidnapped by a drug cartel.

“One week she had her picture in the paper for being a beauty queen, and three weeks later, her picture is in the paper because she’s now driving the getaway car for a cartel,” Hardwicke says.

Hardwicke says her depiction of the story is different because the Zúñiga-inspired character named Gloria (played by Gina Rodríguez) is “much more active” in her pursuit to save herself and her friend.

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures/Catherine Hardwicke

Director Catherine Hardwicke on the set of "Miss Bala."

She says the story also focuses on the issue of cultural identity.

“Like, ‘I’m too gringo to be Mexican and too Mexican to be gringo,’ because they grew up not fluent in Spanish,” Hardwicke says of Gloria and her friend, the two main characters in the film. “This is one thing that’s really interesting for people now; multiple generations of people have lived in the U.S., but they still feel a little bit ‘other.’”

Hardwicke is from McAllen, and she says she remembers jumping off the balcony of her house and swimming across the Rio Grande into Mexico.

“I love the culture of Mexico – all the art, architecture, the food, the music and everything,” Hardwicke says. “I’ve traveled to Mexico extensively, so this chance to make a movie set in a border town was very exciting to me.”

Less top-10 movies were directed by women in 2018 than in 2017, but Hardwicke says she doesn’t believe the industry is going backwards. She says “Miss Bala” – a film with a Latina female lead, a female African-American editor, a female sound mixer and a female director  – is evidence of that.

“We are moving forward. We’ve seen a lot of cool studies where, when you have a woman director, you [also] have more women behind the camera, more women in front of the camera – even the extras, even the small parts,” Hardwicke says.

Written by Sara Schleede.