Issa Lopez’s Tigers Are Not Afraid

I love films that combine a childlike element of fairytale sensibility with the horrors of our world, and Issa Lopez’s Tigers Are Not Afraid does this almost flawlessly. Set in the slums of Mexico, recently orphaned Estrella (Paola Lara) navigates a run down part of town, pursued by the ruthless cartel gang that murdered her mother in cold blood and haunted by ghosts both literal and in her own mind. She joins up with a sort of Lost Boys troupe of fellow kids whose parents were also slaughtered, and together they face down the gang threat, survive by relying on each other’s trust and navigate a chapter of their lives that they are heartbreakingly too young to have to burden. This is a sensational film in every way, and I award it the elusive 10/10 rating, it fucking floored me more than I have words for. What makes it so special is how fluidly it blends genre, style and tone to the point where every element feels congruent with the rest and instead of a film discernibly fashioned together from different elements we get one that feels like it’s own lifeblood, free of comparison. The child actors are all brilliant, especially Lara who imbues Estrella with intuition and soul far beyond her years. She feels the spiritual presence of the dead around every corner, but the ghostly visions aren’t there for cheap scares, they have a very crucial part to play in our story and work seamlessly alongside and within her arc. The villains are a despicable breed, heinous cartel monsters and a brat political wannabe who calls their shots, brutalizing and breaking down this neighbourhood to the point of ruin and despair. But there’s hope! There must be hope, even in the darkest, most forgotten corners of the world. Estrella and her newfound friends are beacons of hope, resilience and the the unheard voices of the lost, the forgotten and the marginalized. Their voices and story are something so human, and so affecting I dreamt of this film last night after viewing it, as if it followed me into sleep with a few more narrative beats to give. It’s that important a piece, feeling at once like horror, fantasy and crime thriller but most importantly, a deeply character based, very personal story of human beings encountering unimaginable obstacles at the very start of their lives, and how their courage can find light even when things are darkest. Dare I say.. masterpiece.

-Nate Hill

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