Who Said a Little Maladaptive Daydreaming Never Helps?
Shudder’s Tigers Are Not Afraid (2019), directed by Issa Lopez, is a devastating fantasy about orphans in a ghost town overcome by the drug wars in modern-day Mexico. Starring Paola Lara, Estrella is “granted three wishes” by her middle school teacher during a shoot-out that comes onto school property.
When Estrella’s mother fails to come home one day, she bands together with a local “gang” of younger boys to take down the cartel responsible for the deaths of their parents. Not only is this film beautifully shot, but it also highlights the intermingling of children’s imaginations in disturbing and tragic situations.
More than anything, this film will make your heart drop to your stomach more than it will race. Estrella’s relationship with her new crew is heavily tested by her own innocence and their desensitization to life in a world without trustworthy adults. El Shine (Juan Ramón López), Tucsi (Hanssel Castillas), and Morro (Nery Arredondo) struggle to accept their new member, but quickly find that it is Estrella’s valor that will force them to unlock their own bravery.
The element of fairytales and fantastic adventures is present, such as the title and trailer would suggest. As Estrella is haunted by the ghost of loved ones’ passing, it calls the audiences’ attention to what they would like to believe about the world Estrella and her crew are living in. Are the wishes she was given real? Or are they no more than a piece of her teacher’s chalk?
From my perspective as a Latina, the underlying cliché of Latino drug dealers wreaking havoc on everybody tends to give me an itch, regardless of what country the film is produced in. So, when the film trailer suggested “satanic” huascas were the problem, I paused and did a little sigh. It did not change much other than the fantastical theme of Where The Wild Things Are meets Narcos. Being determined to change my own mind, I clicked “rent to buy” with an open mind for the antagonistic aspect itself. Needles to say, the satanic element did not land.
Nonetheless, Tigers Are Not Afraid is a work of art that audiences should make an exception for if they, too, find the topic of drug wars to be in overdrive for South-American-based cinema. Lopez’s intention was clear when she sought to emphasize the trauma inflicted on Estrella, El Shine, Morro, and Tucsi, when the only thing that cannot possibly be taken from them is their youth and imagination.
I would say Tigers Are Not Afraid is a film that should only be watched when you genuinely have time to sit down and watch it without rushing through the story. However, you may be out of luck if it is a jump scare or a thrilling ghost story you are after. You can find Tigers Are Not Afraid on Shudder, and it is also available to rent on Amazon Prime and Vudu today!
Tigers Are Not Afraid (2019) Official Shudder Trailer