“Tigers Are Not Afraid”: a Review

todayApril 14, 2020 24

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By Andrea Mau
Web Content Contributor

“Tigers Are Not Afraid” is a horror and magical realism film directed by Issa López. It follows Estrella, a girl growing up in an unnamed Mexician city where gangs and political corruption run rampant. Teaming up with a gang of local homeless children, Estrella must use the help of magic and the living dead to avenge her town.  

screenshot from Tigers Are Not Afraid of the homeless kids
Scene from “Tigers Are Not Afraid.” Screenshot by Andrea Mau via Issa López.

Casting satisfactory actors is hard enough when they’re adults, but with children it’s nearly impossible. Yet the cast of “Tigers Are Not Afraid” is almost entirely children and manage to own every scene like pros. Despite the R-ratedness of the plot, it was clear the child actors were well informed and coached on the subject matter of the film, and this translates to the believability of the characters and their relationships on screen. 

Juan Ramón López as Shine particularly stood out, as his character’s motives were the most complex and difficult to tackle of the cast. Paola Lara as Estrella was also a powerhouse in this film, pulling off intense and disturbing scenes with surprising genuinity. 

screenshot from Tigers Are Not Afraid of Estrella at her home
Scene from “Tigers Are Not Afraid.” Screenshot by Andrea Mau via Issa López.

Yet by far the best aspect of this film is its concept. The combination of the story-telling and fantastical elements contrasts and yet compliments the serious issues of the story and events. This is because the magical realism represents the children’s conception of the events, which is inspiringly hopeful within the darkness of the subject in the film. 

It’s hard but also important to watch “Tigers Are Not Afraid” because of the truth behind its message. Everyday men and women are murdered since the drug war of 2006, and children are left orphaned, homeless and even trafficked. There are no resources for them to reach out to because their entire towns and authority are entwined with cartels.

screenshot from Tigers Are Not Afraid of the koi pond in an abandoned mansion
Scene from “Tigers Are Not Afraid.” Screenshot by Andrea Mau via Issa López.

It is integral how the film uses a child’s perspective to portray this issue, because children are the hidden victim of the drug war. The effect of gang violence doesn’t just impact individuals who deal with drugs, but entire families and neighborhoods. 

“Tigers Are Not Afraid” is genius in that the true nightmare of the story is not the fantastical elements like the ghosts, but really the true parts of the film that are our reality. After most horror films you can reassure yourself that there’s no reason to be afraid because it’s all made up and not real, but after this film there is no such security. “Tigers Are Not Afraid” is so sad and scary because it’s actually happening right now.

“Tigers Are Not Afraid” by Issa López is available on Amazon Prime and Shudder now. 

Featured screenshot by Andrea Mau via Issa López.

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