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Fantasia 2018: TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID (VUELVEN) Review

TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID (VUELVEN) 
MEXICO
2017
83 min

The world is a cold place. A place where innocence is disrupted on the daily.  

We begin our story from a place of purity, in the elementary school classroom of 10-year-old Estella (Paola Lara). As the topic of fairytales comes into play, harsh reality blasts through the windows in the form of stray bullets. Gun fire recklessly displaying the violence of the cartel in Mexico. Her life quickly intertwines with that of street-orphan, Shine (Juan Ramón López). El Shine leads and nurtures a gang of three, also orphaned boys. As her mother disappears, suspecting the local gangs affiliated with the cartel being responsible, Estella seeks out Shine and his friends and the true journey begins.

One of the most powerful and important movies at Fantasia 2018. Issa López is a brave woman and an amazing soul, taking on the responsibility to bring this message into light; the dark reality of Mexico’s cartel and how its aftermath effects that country. For new actors on the scene, the children’s implementation of their roles were all amazing.  Their performances were gripping and heart breaking. 

Last year alone, over 25,000 cartel related homicides occurred. 12% of those were women, leaving orphaned children to the streets. The violence is so egregious, that many cities are left as ghost towns. This is fucked up. This is like Syria, but it’s been happening for over four decades. I commend Ms. López on her initiative to tackle such a controversial subject. Bravo.  

As for the genre, I wouldn’t quite say it is horror, more of a suspenseful dark fairytale stuck in the ugly trenches of a harsh reality. It really goes back and forth between those two lines. The symbolism and imagery are incredible. Sometimes, frightening, sometimes frightening. This tale is from a child’s perspective, so truth of reality is very flexible. There are many clues to point out what is real and what isn’t, but that isn’t what’s important.

In today’s modern entertainment and even in decades before, the cartel life is glamorized. Figures like Escobar in NARCOS are displaying their human side, but anyone that is capable of such ramifications is nothing but a despicable monster.  Every time a gun went off in a scene, it was deafening.  Using kids to deliver this urgent plea of recognition is a bold but necessary strategy.  It worked very well.  I am changed.

I will never forget TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID, it will be with me forever. And I am grateful to the responsibility it took upon itself and the awareness it has unfolded for myself and continues to unfold for others.  Thank you Issa López, you are a true warrior.

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