INTERVIEW: Director Issa López on Award-Winning Fantasy-Horror ‘Tigers Are Not Afraid’

Tigers Are Not Afraid will be getting its northern premiere at Grimmfest 2018. The screening will take place on Friday 5th October at ODEON Manchester Great Northern.

Tickets are available here!

Directed by Issa López, Tigers Are Not Afraid has received a total of twenty-three awards in festivals around the world and has been championed as one of the finest films of the year. It has received an extensive collection of rave reviews and has been praised by the likes of Stephen King and Guillermo Del Toro. This is not a movie to be missed!

Intrigued? Maybe Grimmfest’s synopsis will whet your appetite:

A Mexican City turned into a ghost town by the drug-war. When 11-year-old Estrella’s mother vanishes, she makes a wish: she wants her mother to come back. And mom does return—from the dead. Terrified, Estrella escapes and joins a rag-tag gang of other children orphaned by the violence, all escaping their own past. But she learns that in a city ruled by death, you can’t simply leave the ghosts behind; they walk with you wherever you go.

We caught up with Issa ahead of Grimmsfest’s screening to find out more about this incredibly evocative project.

Chris: Congratulations on the success of Tigers Are Not Afraid. Can you tell us a little bit about the movie and how the whole concept came about?

Issa: Thank you! Tigers comes from a mix of my personal experiences; losing my mother when I was eight years old, my need to address the brutal reality of what Mexico is going through right now (with the drug war and the children that are suffering) and my deep-rooted passion for genre and magical realism.

Chris: Tigers is magical, terrifying and full of both cruelty and love; how difficult was it to get this balance right?Issa: Tough and scary. I’ve always been drawn to genre-benders, to cross the lines of what you can mix without blowing everything up. I believe in the thrill of challenging limitations and rules, especially in a time that so desperately needs to leave tags, labels and borders behind.

A good story is a good story, and it should be free to take from whatever source and influence offers to make it better. That said, so many times I was balancing on the edge of the absurd, the unbelievable and the plain silly… but I think that’s the richest turf to grow originality. I hope I achieved it!

Chris: Tigers took a while to get out into the world after rejections from Sundance and other film festivals. Was it difficult to overcome this initial disappointment? What lessons did you learn?Issa: Very, very difficult, and very painful. Rejection is one of the hardest experiences to go through, and when you are carrying the weight of the dreams of all the people that put their talent and effort in a movie as complicated to make as Tigers was, it becomes a huge responsibility, making things happen with the project. I think that’s what kept me pushing, after a year of trying; perhaps I would have given up, if I didn’t feel I owed some result to the people that worked with me to make this happen. I learnt, again, the oldest and most important lesson: perseverance.

Chris: You’ve clearly earned the success that you’re enjoying today! What advice would you give to aspiring film directors?Issa: The oldest and most important lesson: perseverance!

Seriously, now: make movies about things that matter deeply to you. Go to the place where the pain is. Be honest. Be naked. Be personal. The most intimate stories are the most universal.

Chris: What’s next for you? How do you top the resounding success of Tigers?

Issa: If I go around trying to top anything, I’ll fail! I believe it’s about keep telling stories you care about. Stories that quicken your pulse. Directing things that are scary to direct… have fun in the process. Make friends. Laugh a lot while shooting them… and hope for the best, but not chasing it.

I have some projects in the oven. Some of them are with the heroes of my youth. I think that’s more than enough in the “dreams come true” arena for now… I’m very, very lucky. And very fucking stubborn!

We’d like to say a big thank you to Issa López for taking the time to talk to us! We’d also like to congratulate her on the success of Tigers Are Not Afraid and wish her all the best with her future projects. You can keep up with Issa on Twitter.

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