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  Tigers Are Not Afraid Cost Of The Cartels
Year: 2017
Director: Issa Lopez
Stars: Paola Lara, Juan Ramon Lopez, Nery Arredondo, Hanssel Casillas, Rodrigo Cortes, Iannis Guerrero, Tenoch Huerta
Genre: Horror, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Estrella (Paola Lara) is a ten-year-old girl in Mexico where the problems with society's violence are becoming too big to ignore. When she is in her school one day, the teacher asks the class to discuss fairy tales, a subject close to Estrella’s heart since she lives in a heightened state of reality already, much like a fable, so when sudden bursts of gunfire are heard and the kids dive under their desks, she is not too surprised to see the teacher give her three small sticks of chalk and tell her they are three wishes to be used at her discretion. School is closed for the foreseeable future, and she returns home, but her mother is not there...

No, Estrella's mother has been claimed by the violence as well and "disappeared" as all too many Mexican citizens have been since the drug wars spiralled out of control. This was the jumping off point for writer and director Issa Lopez, a genuine social issue in that thousands of children were being abandoned to fend for themselves after their parents or guardians were murdered in the country's conflicts. But simply making a documentary about their plight might not have reached as many audiences as a horror movie might, so this was the result of her endeavours, a magic realist social picture that did not soft-pedal the reality.

Indeed, you could observe there was more reality here than there was fantasy: we may see this world through Estrella's eyes, but the fact remained there was a living nightmare for countless little ones that nobody was doing anything about, the authorities' attentions focused elsewhere and also trying to avoid being killed themselves. This sense of lawlessness, of a nation that is failing to the extent of collapsing in on itself, was the strongest aspect of a vividly realised set of tones and visuals, an apocalypse that is occurring here on Earth and there is nothing being done to halt its spread as it gradually takes over Central America in a seemingly unstoppable force.

That would be scary in itself, but if you had any concern for the gang of kids Estrella teams up with, you would be dismayed, to put it mildly, to witness what happened to them. Their leader is El Shine (Juan Ramon Lopez, like the other child actors an amateur who got what was expected of them straight away), and he is unconvinced by her, regarding the girl as needy and a burden, which we are sorry to say, might not be too far off the mark. Even with her three wishes, as in a fairy tale when she uses them there are unexpected consequences, so when she initially asks for her mother to return, this happens in a spirit form where the parent is a kind of hairy monster, barely glimpsed in oily black, shadows, so not particularly reassuring for a traumatised kid.

But then, what would be? These children have lost it all - somehow they have access to the odd item of tech, such as a TV to watch age-inappropriate films on, and El Shine picks up a mobile phone significant to the plot, but like anything else they have it is the spoils of scavenging that sees them survive. The cops are not interested in them when they are in the pay of a corrupt leader, the gangs want them dead for reasons unreasonable and erroneous, and then there is the wildlife, as they delight in scaring each other with tales of an escaped tiger that may or may not exist. If there was a comparison to be made, it was with Luis Buñuel's Los Olvidados, a similar yarn about street kids where he uncharacteristically dialled back the surrealism. In this, Lopez reintroduced it, only to a horrific state of affairs that Buñuel could never have dreamt of. As the renown of Tigers Are Not Afraid spread internationally, maybe it could train a spotlight on its real world tragedies.

[Tigers Are Not Afraid is now available on Blu-ray as well as streaming on Shudder, though the disc includes a wealth of special features.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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