×
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

  • Bertrand Tavernier Hosts Night of Cinema

    Bertrand Tavernier Hosts Night of Cinema Inspired Orchestra in Paris

    Flanked by UniFrance president Serge Toubiana and the National Orchestra of France, filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier stood before a rapt crowd at Paris’ Maison de la Radio this past Saturday to introduce an evening dedicated to French film scores called “May the Music Begin!” That moniker – a reference to the original French title of his [...]

  • Orange Studio Sells Out 'Serial (Bad)

    Orange Studio Sells Out 'Serial (Bad) Weddings 2,' 'City Hunter' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Paris-based Orange Studio has nearly sold out its two French comedy highlights, Philippe de Chauveron’s “Serial (Bad) Weddings 2” and Philippe Lacheau’s “City Hunter.” “Serial (Bad) Weddings 2,” which opened the UniFrance Rendez-Vous in Paris last week, is the sequel of the smash hit film which grossed over $148 million worldwide. The movie has been [...]

  • Danmarks Sønner, en film af Ulaa

    Trailer for Rotterdam Competition Opener 'Sons of Denmark' Released (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given exclusive access to the trailer for the opening film of Rotterdam Film Festival’s Tiger Competition, “Sons of Denmark.” The film is a political thriller set in Denmark in 2025, a year after a bomb attack in Copenhagen, when ethnic tensions are running high. An ultra-nationalist politician, Martin Nordahl, and his National [...]

  • Operation Red Sea review

    Chinese Entertainment Industry Braces for a 'Cold Winter' in 2019

    Winter is here for the Chinese entertainment industry, a half-dozen top-tier industry professionals concurred in Beijing at the launch last week of Tencent Entertainment’s annual data-filled white paper. China’s box office hit new heights in 2018, raking in about $9 billion, but it was also a year of drastic regulatory changes and a government tax [...]

  • Indie Sales Acquires Martin Lund's Nordic

    Indie Sales Acquires Nordic Coming-Of-Age 'Psychobitch' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Paris-based company Indie Sales has acquired Martin Lund’s Norwegian coming-of-age drama “Psychobitch” which is headlined by Elli Rhiannon Müller Osbourne (“Utoya: July 22”). “Psychobitch” marks the first feature film of Martin Lund, who made his debut with “Twigson Ties the Knot,” a local box office hit, and followed up with “The Almost Man,” which won [...]

  • Studiocanal has sold Jean Paul Gaultier's

    Jean Paul Gaultier's 'Freak And Chic' Documentary Sells For Studiocanal (EXCLUSIVE)

    Underscoring the strength and scope of French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s legacy around the world, the documentary “Jean Paul Gaultier Freak And Chic,” which chronicles the making of Gaultier’s ongoing popular show in Paris, has been luring distributors in key markets. Sold by Studiocanal and produced by Capa, the documentary has already been picked [...]

  • Korea Box Office: 'MAL·MO·E' and 'Inside

    Korea Box Office: 'MAL·MO·E' and 'Inside Me' Remain on Top

    There was no change at the top of the Korean box office, as local titles “MAL·MO·E: The Secret Mission” and “Inside Me (a.k.a. The Dude in Me)” dominated a second weekend. Lotte’s “MAL·MO·E” earned $4.79 million from 618,000 admissions between Friday and Sunday for a total of $16.7 million from 2.23 million admissions after two [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content