[Boston Underground Film Festival] Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017) - Reviewed

Tigers Are Not Afraid screened at BUFF

What an incredible, stunning, compelling film this is! This is not a mere flick, it’s a flare. Blazing, incandescent, and highly combustible. Yet, in spite of the horrific violence and cruelty at its core, it is an amazingly tender portrayal of a band of Mexican street children caught in the crosshairs of the drug cartels in that troubled land.

Tigers Are Not Afraid is a well-deserved triumph for Director Issa López, who has succeeded admirably in capturing the glimmers of hope and human kindness in an otherwise godforsaken situation. The opening scenes quickly set this rapid-fire narrative into motion: schoolchildren dive under their desks to escape flying bullets outside; a street urchin filches an incriminating cellphone belonging to a druglord; and a teenaged girl, the aptly named Estrella, is orphaned after the brutal slaying of her mother. But just beforehand, her teacher had given the girl three pieces of chalk that she can wish on, a staple of many traditional fairy tales. When the aptly named Estrella (Paola Lara) convinces a band of skeptical boys that she belongs in their ragtag street gang, led by El Shine (Juan Ramón López), also aptly named, the stage is set for a compelling tale in which human star-shine triumphs over the most desperate of situations.

Issa López has a track record in literature as well as television and film, so it is not surprising that she taps the genre of magic realism to tell what has been described as a “dark fairy tale.” Witness the superb cinematography of Tigers Are Not Afraid: Stuffed animals and graffiti come to life, as does Estrella’s chalk, while a trail of blood persistently pursues the girl, who finally confronts her slain mother in an abandoned bathhouse--all suggesting a subtext of emerging sexuality in what might be described as a coming-of-age tale for youngsters who have sadly grown up far too quickly. 

Share this review.

-Edward Moran