You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Naranjo: Expands borders with Mexican drug-war tale

10 Directors to Watch 2012: Gerardo Naranjo

Age: 40
Homebase: Brooklyn
Inspired by: “I love when filmmakers achieve abstraction and poetry while still making film about the world,” he says, citing Luis Bunuel, Robert Bresson and Russian director Elem Klimov’s “Come and See.”
Reps: Agents, Scott Greenberg and Jay Baker (CAA); Lawyer, Carlos Goodman

Naranjo’s “Miss Bala,” which premiered in Cannes and went on to become Mexico’s submission for the foreign-language Oscar, brilliantly straddles the art/commerce divide. “I feel like it’s where I want my movies to navigate — the best of both worlds,” continues Naranjo.

In its story of a Mexican beauty pageant contestant caught in a vast web of corruption, “Miss Bala” has the trappings of a genre thriller.

But Naranjo, a cinephile who studied at the American Film Institute and cites filmmakers from Jean-Luc Godard to Andrzej Zulawski as inspiration, has made an “anthropological” study of Mexico’s culture of violence that is anything but conventional.

Of Naranjo’s three previous features, each is as different and distinctively personal as the next: “Malachance,” an improvisational New Orleans-set indie; “Drama/Mex,” a tale of interwoven dramas in Acapulco; and “I’m Going to Explode,” a stylish lovers-on-the-lam tragedy.

Though made on a tight budget, “Miss Bala” is Naranjo’s biggest and boldest production to date. Directing the film’s elaborately choreographed single-take action sequences required the “biggest preparations I had done in my entire life,” he acknowledges.

“But I’m not ready to be an action director. I would love to make a film like ‘Mad Max,’ but I would also like to have the emotion in there.”

“What’s unique about Gerardo is that he’s not trying to emulate anyone, he’s his own true filmmaker,” says Sanford Panitch, president of Fox Intl. Productions, which came aboard “Miss Bala” and will also back Naranjo’s upcoming project, a multi-language heist film set on an oil rig.

“In heist films, they usually steal money, not a liquid,” quips Naranjo, who is also adapting a book, an international thriller that deals with the FBI, the CIA and a dictatorship. In both cases, the director feels ready to branch out from the local industry and become a more international filmmaker.

“I don’t consider myself just a Mexican,” he says. “I don’t feel this idea of boundaries or borders, and I would like to make movies that have that same feeling.”

10 Directors to Watch
Zal Batmanglij |

Valerie Donzelli | Gareth Evans | Philippe Falardeau | Mike ‘Mouse’ McCoy & Scott Waugh | Gerardo Naranjo | Matt Piedmont | Michael R. Roskam | Lynn Shelton | Benh Zeitlin

More Film

  • Roman Polanski extradition

    Academy Responds to Roman Polanski: 'Procedures Were Fair and Reasonable'

    UPDATE: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has responded to a lawsuit from director Roman Polanski that claimed he was unfairly expelled from the industry organizaton. “The procedures taken to expel Mr. Polanski were fair and reasonable. The Academy stands behind its decision as appropriate,” a spokesperson said. Polanski is suing the Academy [...]

  • Lorraine Warren dead

    Lorraine Warren, Paranormal Investigator Who Inspired 'The Conjuring,' Dies at 92

    Lorraine Warren, paranormal investigator and demonologist whose life inspired franchises like “The Conjuring” and “The Amityville Horror,” has died. She was 92. Warren’s son-in-law Tony Spera confirmed the news. Spera said on Facebook, “She died peacefully in her sleep at home.” He continued, “She was a remarkable, loving, compassionate and giving soul. To quote Will [...]


    'Exorcist' Star Max Von Sydow Doesn't Let Age Define His Roles

    Max von Sydow turned 90 this month, which is a milestone for most people, but age has always seemed incidental to the actor. When he played the elderly, frail Father Merrin in “The Exorcist,” von Sydow was 44 — meaning he was the same age Bradley Cooper is today. In the 1950s, von Sydow had [...]

  • 'Changing the Game' Documentary

    Watch the First Trailer for Trans Documentary 'Changing the Game' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Another hurdle for trans rights could quite literally be the track and field hurdle. Transgender student athletes are put in the spotlight in the forthcoming documentary “Changing the Game,” set to premiere at 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Variety has the world premiere of the doc’s first teaser trailer, which gives an in-depth look into the [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Box Office

    Box Office: 'Curse of La Llorona' Conjures $2.8 Million on Thursday Night

    “The Curse of La Llorona,” the latest entry in Warner Bros. and New Line’s “Conjuring” universe, conjured $2.75 million from Thursday preview showings, while “Breakthrough,” a faith-based offering from Fox-Disney, brought in $1.5 million from its second day of screenings. “La Llorona’s” haul tops recent horror counterparts “Pet Sematary” and “Escape Room,” which each took [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content