Tigers Are Not Afraid, written and directed by Mexican filmmaker Issa Lopez, is a gripping and often hard to watch fantasy-clad drama that revolves around a group of Mexican tweens — a girl and four boys — whose ‘disappeared’ parents were victims of the ongoing drug-related violence that is decimating communities across the country.
This is self-sustaining band of orphans who are living on the streets and in abandoned buildings, making do with the nothing that they have, while finding ways to fool around and play like the kids they are. They have formed a family and their support of each other and their genius for survival are stunning. They’ve even developed their own very particular mythology and tell each other stories to shake off their fears. In the film, what we see of their lives is an odd mixture of their harsh “have not” reality and their child-mind fantasies.
One of the boys pinches a gun and a cell phone from a drug kingpin and, as a result, the whole gang of kids is being pursued by the gang of drug thugs. That might make for a rather simple and commonplace plot, but Issa Lopez’s masterful storytelling style is anything but simple. With skillful and extraordinarily effective structuring of her story, Lopez breaks into the linear narrative with fantasy sequences that reveal the underlying emotional turmoil of the children and makes you, the audience, feel the realities of their really excruciating lifestyle and danger’s they’re facing.
The interplay between documentary-like realism and magical realism in Tigers Are Not Afraid is absolutely galvanizing, and the film’s wrapped-in-fantasy denouement is heartbreaking. Be sure to add this brilliant film to your must see list.