Miss Bala, the latest feature from from director Gerardo Naranjo, marks a major step in the career of the Mexican filmmaker. Getting a bit bored with his own work in the wake of his last film, I’m Gonna Explode (Voy A Explotar), Naranjo decided to shake up his entire approach to making movies.

“I reached a point where I was not even challenging myself,” Naranjo told me here in Cannes, sitting on a balcony overlooking the old port. “I felt I had to do something I didn’t know how to do.”

While his previous films grew out of a very free-flowing process, resulting in rough cuts that would clock in at up to six hours long, his latest came from a controlled environment. 155 shots to start, trimmed down to 130 cuts. “Not a single thing that is not pre-planned,” Naranjo explained of his new movie. In fact, he even shot the whole movie once in video — to get everyone on the same page — before filming it for real.

The story of a Mexican beauty queen entangled in Mexican drug battle and then arrested, the seemingly outrageous idea is actually based in reality. Set in Baja California, the film stars Stephanie Sigman (a former model) in the lead role. The film is produced by Canana, Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna and Pablo Cruz’s busy Mexican film company.

Unwilling to get to a point where he’s repeating films he’s already made, Naranjo pushed himself to grapple with the current drug war in his home country. 

“Directors evolve and most of them get to a point where they lose contact with their art,” Naranjo explained, adding early that the story is, “A perfect metaphor for the way the country has been ruled the way corruption permeates everything and involves every aspect of life in Mexico.”

FilmLinc: Gerardo Naranjo Talks “Miss Bala” by FilmLinc

Eugene Hernandez is the Director of Digital Strategy at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and a founder of indieWIRE. Follow him on Twitter from Cannes (@eug) and follow the rest of FIlmLinc.com’s Cannes coverage in our special section.