Interview with Issa Lopez, director of TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID

Ahead of the UK premiere of TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow 2018, director Issa Lopez tells us about her journey from Mexico’s SESAME STREET to creating an internationally admired feature film and why the horror genre has always been her passion.

Issa Lopez

Q: Could you tell us about your career background leading up to TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID.

My first paid job in the business was writing and directing segments for the Mexican Sesame Street. Eventually I moved on to write soap-operas, or Telenovelas, as they are known in Mexico. Terrible job, but quite the school for writers. It took me around five years to find my way into movies: writing romantic comedies. It took a while to convince producers I could direct myself, and that I didn’t want to direct the rom-coms I was known for, but very caustic comedies. I directed two of these. I know, nothing of this seems to lead to Tigers, but actually, it did: genre has always been my passion, and so many years, pages, scenes without it pushed me into going full-fantasy, full-grit with Tigers.

Q: TIGERS is very different to your previous works, what were your inspirations for the film?

So many of them… it’s a very weird, very honest blend of passions. From ‘Goonies’ and ‘Stand by Me’ to ‘Los Olvidados’, by Buñuel, and of course Del Toro’s two Spanish movies.

Q: The performances in the film are simply sensational, especially Paola Lara as Estrella. How was the casting process and how did you find working with the young actors?

We saw six hundred children to find these five. It was exhausting, exhilarating and heart-breaking, all at the same time. It is tough to say no to kids, and it was so much fun to watch them improvise… for the final round, we enlisted the help of acting-guru Fátima Toledo, the Brazilian genius behind the performances in ‘City of God’. Fátima and I went together through the final twenty to pick the five. We agreed on most of it, disagreed on some, and ended up very happy with our choices. I love them all, and it was a joy to spend with them the prep and the shooting.

Issa LopezQ: The film has a beautiful look and feel to it, was that difficult to achieve and how did you set about it?

Thanks! For every project, even while writing, I start to create endless boards of visual references that were the spine for the look and universe you saw on the screen: this kind of ghost city retaken by children and wilderness. To recreate it, I enlisted the help of two amazing artists: Juan José Saravia, my DP, who immediately understood what I wanted. Together we came up with this feeling of a sixth kid in the gang: us. The camera, hiding, running, playing with Shine’s banda. And then, of course, there’s Ana Solares, whose Production design not only captured what I wanted, but actually brought into the mix elements as central to the story as the graffiti. I ended up writing it into the script.

Q: What personal experiences did you draw on to make the film?

I lost my mother when I was eight. Of course, the circumstances where, thankfully, very far from the brutality of what happens to my characters, and to so many children in Mexico -and the world. But still, this sense of coming home from school one day and never seeing your mother again, never having a chance to say goodbye, never seeing a body, a casket…gives you a feeling of a ghost following you around, waiting for you to look at it, and acknowledge death. Hence Tigers.

Q: How have audiences reacted to the film both at home and internationally? You must be delighted that Stephen King via Twitter gave it such a glowing appraisal…to quote him: “This is one terrific film, both tough and touching. Two minutes in I was under its spell.”

It’s been absolutely incredible! I LOVE sitting down in theatres, around the world, and experiencing the emotional impact the movie has through such different cultures, and how the differences melt when the story and the characters unfold. People cry. A lot. And it is such a moving, incredible feeling, to know that what we started off trying, actually happened. Is it terrible to say it feels good to make people cry?

Mr. King and Mr. Del Toro’s reaction… how to describe the feeling of your personal heroes saying you did well? I still can’t believe it, honestly.

Q: Are you looking forward to the screening at FrightFest Glasgow?

I’m dying to see how it plays in Scotland! Are you kidding me?

Q: What is the state of play with the film industry in Mexico currently, are they generally supportive of genre projects?

Tigers Are Not Afraid

Nope. Mexican audiences, for the last five years have been demanding and consuming comedy, when it comes to local production. Not surprising, considering the violence we are submerged in right now. So, even though we Mexicans absolutely love genre… we import it. Absurd, right? I hope that changes soon.

Q: What films this year have caught your eye?

Oh, so many! What a year! Especially for genre. It’s almost pointless to say what a movie ‘The Shape of Water’ is. What maturity, heart, originality it has, and how pertinent to the moment we are all going through. But then there’s ‘A Ghost Story’, that made me cry so much, ‘Thelma’, ‘It Comes at Night’, and ‘Blade Runner 2049’, of course, doomed to become a cult classic, like the original… and soon a couple of gems doing the Fest Circuit are going to be available to all, like ‘Lowlife’ and ‘The Endless’.

Q: What is next for you? Will you stay within or perhaps return to the genre at some point?

I’m going to FrightFest, then fly back home to premiere a comedy. After Tigers I so needed a good laugh, and I had it. It’s called ‘Todo Mal’ and it is also a bit of a genre-bender, but quite a different beast. Next? All genre. I’m playing around with two projects I’m quite in love with. More soon on those…

TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID is showing at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Sat 3 March, 9.05pm, as part of Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow 2018. Issa Lopez will be attending.

Horror Channel bares its fangs with Werewolf Season

Howl

Howl

Throughout February, Saturday nights at 10.55pm will be devoted to SEASON OF THE WOLF as Horror Channel presents a fang and fur-filled selection of classic and contemporary werewolf movies, including the UK TV premieres of Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s freshly-biting LATE PHASES and Paul Hyett’s HOWL, a hairy horror and bloody action adventure, starring Ed Speelers, Shauna Macdonald and Sean Pertwee. Plus, there are network premieres for Lowell Dean’s rage-fuelled WOLFCOP and Joe Dante’s genre transforming cult-hit THE HOWLING.
In a premiere-packed month there are also UK TV premieres for Derek Lee & Cliff Prowese’s award-winning fear-inducing AFFLICTED and Brett Simmons’s supernatural shocker THE MONKEY’S PAW.

Everyone’s favourite serial-killer doll is reaping more murder and mayhem in the network premiere of Don Mancini’s CURSE OF CHUCKY. There are first channel showings for William Friedkin’s intensely haunting THE GUARDIAN, John Carpenter’s unforgettably creepy THE FOG, starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Charles Band’s B-Movie masterpiece PARASITE,
Plus, there’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT, the first theatrical feature spin off from the famed television series and TALES FROM THE CRYPT: BORDELLO OF BLOOD, the second of the three planned movies under the HBO Tales from the Crypt banner,


Full film details in transmission order:

SEASON OF THE WOLF

Sat 3 Feb @ 22:55 – THE HOWLING (1981) *Network Premiere

A female reporter is attacked by a notorious serial killer and to get over her trauma she is sent to ‘The Colony’, a remote mountain resort. But there her problems really begin, as the residents are werewolves. Considered one of the superior werewolf movies ever made, it stars Dee Wallace, Christopher Stone, Patrick Macnee and John Carradine.

The Howling

Sat 10 Feb @ 22:55 – LATE PHASES (2014) *UK TV Premiere

Late Phases

Crescent Bay is not the best place to live out one’s golden years. Once an idyllic retirement community, the gated hamlet has been beset by mysterious deadly attacks. So when blind war veteran Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici) moves in, the residents are put off by his abrasive personality, But it’s his grizzled take-no-prisoners attitude that’s needed to survive the sinister secret the tight-knit neighbourhood is harbouring.

Sat 17 Feb @ 22:55 – WOLFCOP (2014) *Network TV Premiere

Wolfcop

Lou Garou is a lazy, alcoholic cop by day, a violent crime-fighting werewolf by night with a new found sense of duty to uphold. Overnight, the small rural town of Newhaven has a new lycanthropic hero and he’s determined to become a better policeman…one full moon transformation at a time.

Sat 24 Feb @ 22:55 – HOWL (2015) *UK TV Premiere

Howl

Young ambitious ticket collector Joe (Ed Speelers) is overseeing the last train out of London on a dark and stormy night. Suddenly the train screeches to a halt in a forest after hitting something on the tracks, but the investigating driver never returns. Realising an unknown and dangerous threat is lurking in the woods the disparate group of strangers aboard must work together in order to survive a common feral enemy


OTHER FILM PREMIERES

Fri 2 Feb @ 21:00 – TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT (1995) *Network Premiere

Ex-soldier Frank Brayker (William Sadler) is the guardian of an ancient key that can unlock unimaginable evil. But a demon, in the guise of a ‘The Collector’ (Billy Zane), also wants the key so he can initiate the apocalypse. Brayker stops at a boarding house in New Mexico where, with the help of its quirky residents, he plans to face off against The Collector and his savage band of ghouls.

Sun 4 Feb @ 21:00 – AFFLICTED (2013) *UK TV Premiere

Afflicted

Two best friends see their world trip of a lifetime take a dark turn when one is struck by a mysterious illness that changes his metabolism, making him superhuman. A clever spin on a classic scary story, dual-threat Cliff Prowse and Derek Lee make an impressive horror feature debut.

Fri 9 Feb @ 21:00 – TALES FROM THE CRYPT: BORDELLO OF BLOOD (1996) *Network Premiere

After her troublemaking brother, Caleb (Corey Feldman), goes missing, Katherine Verdoux (Erika Eleniak) hires a private investigator to track her brother down. Caleb is eventually tracked to a seedy brothel run by Lilith (Angie Everhart), a powerful vampire who has Caleb under her spell. Rescuing him will take all of Katherine’s might…

Sun 11 Feb @ 21:00 – THE FOG (1980) *Network Premiere

The Fog

target for revenge by a killer fog containing zombie-like ghosts seeking revenge for their deaths. John Carpenter’s first horror thriller following Halloween, sees him reunited with Jamie Lee Curtis. Janet Leigh and the great Carpenter himself also star.

Fri 16 Feb @ 21:00 – THE MONKEY’S PAW (2013) *UK TV Premiere

After Jake Tilton (C. J. Thomason) is given a mystical “monkey’s paw” talisman that grants him three wishes, he finds the world turned upside down when his first two wishes result in his co-worker Tony Cobb (Stephen Lang), being resurrected from the dead. When Cobb pressures Jake into using his final wish to reunite Cobb with his son, his intimidation quickly escalates into relentless murder – forcing Jake to outwit his psychotic friend and save his remaining loved ones.

Fri 18 Feb @ 21:00 – PARASITE (1982) *Network Premiere

Superstar Demi Moore leads a talented cast in this suspenseful yarn about a scientist who discovers a deadly parasite which can be used for the good of mankind. But some unscrupulous people have other uses in mind. Thrilling and full of action, this earlier performance by Moore is a treat for more than just her legion of fans.

Fri 23 Feb @ 21:00 – CURSE OF CHUCKY (2013) *Network Premiere

Curse Of Chucky

Chucky arrives to wreak havoc within a dysfunctional family that’s regrouped for a funeral. In the wake of her mother’s passing, Nica – in a wheelchair since birth – is forced to put up with her relatives as they say their tearful goodbyes. When the people she loathes start turning up dead, Nica is horrified to discover the culprit might be the weird doll she was sent a few days earlier. Picking up events from the preceding SEED OF CHUCKY with helmer Don Mancini back in the director’s chair, this sixth instalment of the series delivers even more blood-splattered thrills and chills.

Sun 25 Feb @ 21:00 – THE GUARDIAN (1990) *Network Premiere

The Guardian

In his first film since The Exorcist, Oscar-winning director William Friedkin spins a terrifying tale based on every parent’s worst fears. Jenny Seagrove plays Camilla, the enchanting guardian, who enters the home of new parents Phil (Dwier Brown) and Kate (Carey Lowell) possessing impeccable references and an affinity for children. But as her true intentions are revealed, the battle for the child’s soul begins in this chilling film based on Dan Greenburg’s popular novel, The Nanny.

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