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Beautiful and brutal, “Tigers Are Not Afraid” is an imaginative and unforgettable film — a dark fantasy born of very real and unimaginable horrors.

Tigers Are Not Afraid is a horror/fantasy film, written and directed by Issa López, centered around the journey of five young children caught up in the violence of the Mexican drug war.

The only girl of the group, Estrella is haunted by the ghost of her murdered mother and has three wishes that will directly affect her and her friends’ survival. The film also focuses on the destruction of the children’s childhood and the tragedy of having to grow up too fast due to the evil deeds of adults.

The film opens with an explanation of the current drug war that has been unfolding in Mexico since 2006 and the mass murders and disappearances in association with the war. It has then been revealed that there are no statistics explaining the fate of the children drawn into the war. This not only sets the scene of the film but also adds a sense of realism, relevance and urgency.

Tigers Are Not Afraid explores the destruction of childhood innocence and the consequences of throwing children into violent situations.

The leader of the group, Shine, acts like a parent to his three male friends. He is unfortunately very aware of the situation and is upset that he doesn’t have the same power and cruelty as adults (specifically the ability to kill), because he fears that it will threaten his survival.

This makes him a particularly sympathetic character as he is forced into an adult world and is punished for trying to be the child he deserves to be. He also is unable to enjoy the simple pleasures of childhood, especially when the children take refuge in an old mansion where he is unable to see the ‘zoo’ and ‘soccer field’ the other children discover.

Estrella even becomes a mother-figure to the group, as she too understands the seriousness of the situation while the other three children still hang onto the innocence of childhood — constantly betrayed by adults, including the ones that are meant to protect them, such as the police and politicians.

The children’s story comes to life thanks to the convincing child actors who project their individual characters and struggles with grace – projecting as if they truly were homeless, orphaned children on the run from a drug gang.

The supernatural elements ensure that the film stands out and gives life to the victims of the drug war. The scenes in which the ghosts appear are well constructed, while also slowly revealing the circumstances of the murder of Estrella’s mother and allowing for an emotional battle to occur — forcing Estella to choose between loyalty to her friends or giving into the ghost’s demands for revenge.

Overall, Tigers Are Not Afraid is a riveting film with sympathetic characters facing all-too-real horrors. This emotional and impactful story will haunt you long after the final scene.

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