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A graffiti tiger paces behind the bars of his spray-painted cage. Rivulets of blood snake from a crime scene to track characters through paint-peeling hallways. A grand piano burns amid the shadows of a gutted warehouse. Goldfish swim in puddles carved into the cement that surrounds a shattered tank. These and the countless more equally stunning images crowd Issa López’s “Tigers Are Not Afraid,” searing themselves upon the brain — each and every one a metaphor (some more intuitive than others) for the dangers that daily face a group of Mexican street children, collateral damage in the country’s senseless drug war.
A well-established screenwriter whose credits run the gamut from romantic comedies to the tense, Tim Roth-starring cartel thriller “600 Miles,” still finding her voice as a director, López feels her way forward in a way that simply can’t be ignored with “Vuelven.” The title means “They Return” in Spanish, which speaks to a certain ghost-story aspect of her third feature, although “Tigers Are Not Afraid” better reflects the poetic sensibility of a project that defies genre classification — and demands that audiences take notice.
Film - Review - 'Tigers - Afraid
Film Review: 'Tigers Are Not Afraid'
Brutal gang violence is nothing new in movies, although it’s shocking to witness it visited on — and perpetrated by — characters so young, some still tender enough that they can be seen carrying a raggedy stuffed animal in one hand and a deadly firearm in the other, treating each like toys that had been denied them by parents who disappeared long ago. That’s the injustice López seems determined to explore here, questioning how a society can allow such callousness: both the urban warfare that claims their missing mothers and fathers, and the inhumanity that follows, as these kids are left to make their way without support in the world.
Well, not entirely...
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