TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID – Review by Jennifer Merin

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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.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tigers Are Not Afraid is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for September 6, 2019

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).