Issa Lopez delivers one of the best thriller movies of all time in this epic fantasy tale of Mexican children trying to cope with the drug war.
I have spent some days at Kosmorama Film Festival in Trondheim and among the fourteen movies I managed to see in four days, this stands as my ultimate favorite. The mexican director Issa Lopez manages to create a world with fantasy and horror elements and make it seem so real and believable.
We have a 10-year-old girl in the leading role, who is owning the entire film. Estrella (Paola Lara) has 3 magical wishes, the first one is that her mother will return, after being kidnapped by the drug cartel, but she is dead and starts following her everywhere. Estrella ends up meeting a band of orphans led by Shine (Juan Ramos Lopez) a cynical and cold despairing boy who is trying to protect the younger children. Together they declare war on the cartel and figure out what happened to Estrellas mother.
The acting by Lara and Lopez are just astonishing and the director manages to play on the difference in their personalities when they interact with the other orphans. Estrella is open to fun and games while hiding and Shine is the angry cynical boy with burn marks in his face who just wants revenge. The evolution of the characters throughout the film is a work of art, and the way they are faced with brutality and loss makes everyone afflicted.
The thing that Lopez does so well here is using the fantasy elements and make them seem natural. Like they are everyday events. Issa Lopez also wrote the screenplay and she portrays the Mexican drug wars in a way it seems natural to do.
Tigers are not Afraid is not a horror film, but it has horror elements that is done very well. The walking corpse of Estrellas mother that follows her around is scary to look at, and there are a few attempts at jump scares done very well. Tigers are Not Afraid is more of a very intense thriller, it is very spooky and I found myself to be worried about the children throughout the film.
Issa Lopez has now joined the wave of amazing Mexican directors. We cannot get by without comparing it to Guillermo Del Toros Pan`s Labyrinth from 2006. The main difference is that Lopez uses todays Mexico to make everything feel so much closer, We know that the drug wars are intense and that plenty of children disappear every day. Tigers is being used as a metaphor for entrapment and escape, and there are quite a few tigers throughout the film.
Lopez beautiful international breakthrough is a must see. I love this movie beyond words and it was the main highlight of Kosmorama film festival. I ended up loving it a lot more than I expected and if you are a fan of beautiful mise-en-scene and an astonishing soundwork. Tigers are Not Afraid is the movie for you.