When LA social worker Anabel Medina sees a heavily armed gunman open fire at a shopping mall in Malibu, she almost snickers at the cruelly ironic fact that, after everything she’s managed to survive throughout her violent childhood in El Salvador, she’s now about to die. Here. In Malibu.
Soon thereafter, while being interviewed on live TV—and asked how she was able to subdue the shooter with such unfazed bravery, as has been seen by millions on a viral video—Anabel demurs. She doesn’t want to talk about how she had spent her adolescence fleeing from marauding death squads in the Salvadoran hinterlands, and how a childhood in such constant close proximity to death begets a kind of callousness that’s difficult to grasp for people from the North. The hero worship fluff piece she’s expected to partake in comes entirely undone when Anabel—instead of giving some redundant play-by-play of the ordeal, or leaving it at yet another feckless argument for stricter gun control—opts to speak about the deeper reasons for the ceaseless stream of violence in, and from, America while giving an articulate assessment of a western system rife with corporate greed, extreme iniquity, perpetual wars, and smoldering rage.
Days later, Chris Heller, a disenchanted war photographer who’s visiting his hometown of Los Angeles, meets a woman by the name of Anabel who, as it turns out, has recently made waves in Malibu. Two damaged souls begin to bond and for the first time in god-knows-how-long, feel close to someone else.
When Anabel faces calls to use the platform she’s unwittingly achieved, Chris, afire with a newfound sense of purpose in her wake, encourages her to run for office as an independent candidate. What follows is an unrelenting media smear campaign against the former ‘Heroine of Malibu’ who, through her enormous popularity, rises to become a threat to the establishment.