Issa Lopez’s Tigers Are Not Afraid may be my favorite film of the year so far. Not only is it a beautifully shot and deeply emotional film, it also has a lot to say while being genuinely frightening. Set in a Mexican town devastated by cartel violence, Lopez presents us with a stark look at life caught in the crossfire of the drug war and mixes in magical realism. The movie hurt my heart in its tragedy and lifted me in its triumph, however fleeting it may be.
We follow two middle school kids named Estrella (Paola Lara) and Tucsi (Hansell Casillas). Estrella lives with her mother and goes to school. Tucsi lives on the street with four other boys, all orphaned by the cartel. Their paths cross when Estrella’s mother goes missing and she takes up with Tucsi’s gang to survive. They find themselves ultimately connected by a stolen cell phone that puts all their lives in danger and sets them on the run across a city that seems almost apocalyptic.
Tigers Are Not Afraid is filled with surprising turns and images and should be experienced with as little fore-knowledge as possible. I can’t stress enough how much of a must-see film this is, especially right in an era where asylum seekers are coming to America for safety, only to have their families ripped apart, imprisoned, and shipped back to wherever the fuck they came from as if they weren’t even human. If you are someone who believes we should build a wall along our border and still feel that way after watching Tigers Are Not Afraid, then you’re a heartless sociopath and I pity you.
The film had its Fantasia Fest premiere on July 30th at 8 PM. No word yet on when it will debut on DVD or VOD, but keep your eye out. This is a rare and important cinematic experience.