Issa Lopez’s 2019 film Tigers Are Not Afraid has a strange relationship to Tarkovsky’s Stalker. It has too many Stalker like elements to be a coincidence. Tigers Are Not Afraid is set in a part of Mexico City that looks and feels like a post-apocalyptic disaster area. There are plenty of lingering shots of poetic detritus and forlorn looking spaces. In fact the city seems to be almost deserted. Everywhere our protagonists go they are alone in a still and silent world.
We are following a small gang of 8 to 10 year old boys and one slightly older girl. The girl believes she has three wishes, and we the audience are unsure if she actually does or not. Half way through the film the girl and one of the boys find themselves sitting quietly by a big puddle on the second floor of a half collapsed building. A large number of Koi are inexplicably swimming around in the puddle. As they sit there the two kids discuss her wishes. I suppose it could be a coincidence but it sure seems like Ms. Lopez has at least seen Stalker. There is even a scene where a stray german shepard wanders across the background of a scene.
I mention these similarities not as a reproach, it just feels strange to see these scenes unfold in such reminiscent ways. Lopez’s film has its own original elements. There is the drama between the kids as well as an element of horror. Actually when it comes to the horror its is pretty derivative of Guillermo del Torro, especially Pan’s Labyrinth, but even so the film kept me involved and interested. Lopez has an innovative scene with a haunted cup o’ noodles that is truly wonderful.
Unfortunately once the film begins to really take shape it forms into something more conventional. It reduces down into a a kind of haunted thriller, where the underdog children have to stop the evil gangsters. Its as if the filmmakers waded their way out into an interesting place but got scared and needed to hang on to something more simple and solid. Its still a good film its just that it started off full of intriguing elements and didn’t follow through. I understand wanting to keep a certain amount of structure and even perhaps salability, but it really feels like a potentially great film lost its way.
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