Toronto After Dark gets underway this evening at the Scotiabank Theatre with its opening night film, Tigers Are Not Afraid. Hailing from Mexico, this film kicks off the festival with a darkly beautiful story that has hints of del Toro, and invites us into the troubled lives of a group of children.
Screening at 7pm tonight, the film follows Estrella (Paola Lara) and Shine (Juan Ramon Lopez) in their dying city. The crime lords, and the drug war has taken their toll, thousands go missing every year, and no one knows what happens to the children.
Enter Estrella, a young girl on the cusp of growing up. A girl who still wants to believe in fairy tales, even the scary ones, and whose own life ventures into dark territory when her mother doesn’t come home one night, and the local gang is the reason.
Joining up with young Shine, and his pals, the group lives on their own, trying to survive the streets while eluding the gang… they have something of great importance to the villains of the piece.
But Estrella is haunted by visions, or are they more? of her mother, and the recent dead, as well as strange creatures, and a seeking line of blood that connects the deaths together.
Beautifully shot, the film walks a line between innocence, fantasy, and the all too gritty violent reality these children live in. The innocence makes for some comedic moments, ones that only children could have, even in dark times, while the fantasy hints at more going on around Estrella than she sees, and some things she definitely does not want to see, and the violent reality is filled with the all too familiar realization that children can die.
Less scare than one would expect for an opening night film, Tigers Are Not Afraid is an enjoyable watch, as Lopez tells their story. It also hints at everything I’ve come to expect from Toronto After Dark, some scares, some fascinating imagery, tales from around the globe, special effects, moments of humor, tenderness, and terror, and I look forward to all those things coming to fruition over the next week.
Tigers Are Not Afraid is preceded by the Lovecraftian short, Echoes in the Ice from BJ Verot.
As I write this tickets are still available for this screening, and for other screenings throughout the festival. Take a look at what’s playing and pick up your tickets here. Then I’ll see you Toronto… After Dark.