TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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Tigers Are Not Afraid, infused with a sense magical realism and featuring some rather gripping performances by child actors, is a gritty cinema-verite crime drama that feels like Peter Pan, the Lost Boys and Wendy met in Pan’s Labyrinth while protecting each other on the mean streets of Mexico. As drug wars regularly break out and gunfire is a regular occurrence, young children define themselves as warriors and fend for themselves in a parent-less jungle where crime, corruption and danger lurk around every corner.

Writer/director Issa Lopez’s Spanish-language genre mash-up often promises more than it can deliver but it is helped by a group of compelling youngsters on screen. At the center is Estrella (Paola Lara), a brave tween-age student who receives three pieces of chalk from her teacher that have special supernatural powers as a shoot-out occurs outside her classroom. The bits of chalk represent three magical wishes she can make.

After she discovers her mother is nowhere to be found at their home, Estrella joins a band of orphaned boys who are hiding out from adult criminals after their ring leader, Shine (Juan Ramon Lopez), steals a cell phone and a gun from one of the bad guys.

Lopez effectively uses a snake-like stream of red whenever Estrella employs one of her three wishes and not always good spirits are summoned. Yes, children are put in harm’s way and some are killed – which leads Estrella to accept the reality of her circumstances. But I was most intrigued by Lopez, who works hard to be tough but can’t help but react as a child rather than a street thug at times.

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

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for RogerEbert.com. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.