The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Tigers Are Not Afraid.
Issa López’s festival-favourite is a darkly magical tale set in the real world tragedy of Mexico’s violent drug war, where thousands of murdered and missing people result in countless orphaned children forced onto the streets to fend for themselves. When her mother disappears, a young girl named Estrella uses one of three wishes granted to her to ask for her mother back and finds herself haunted by a vengeful ghost. Estrella takes up with a quartet of street kids led by Shine but the boys have their own problems, pursued by a vicious gang intent on reclaiming a lost iPhone. Blending artfully immediate handheld cinematography and convincing fantastical digital effects, López creates a realist fairy tale that stands as a prescient statement on Mexico’s deadly drug cartels and a hauntingly magical fairy tale.
- 2K digital transfer, approved by director Issa López, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- New interview with López, acting coach Fátima Toledo, and filmmaker Guillermo del Toro
- Tan Callando, López’s 1994 student film made at Mexico’s National University, with introduction by the director
- New English subtitle translation
- PLUS: An essay by novelist Stephen King
MMC! keeps our creepy October rolling with Dave Fleischer’s spook-errific animation classic, Snow-White (1933). This Betty Boop masterpiece was animated almost single-handed by Roland Crandall over six months, his reward for loyal service to Fleischer Studios. The short features an array of creepy gags and set-pieces, the highlight of which is the Mystery Cave portion where a rotoscoped Cab Calloway performs “St. James Infirmary Blues” as a ghostly Koko the Clown. I first saw Snow-White in a class on the Disney Company where the very knowledgeable professor cited the rotoscoped appearance of Cab Calloway as an introduction of realism into the film, something I never understood given the very fantastic animation applied to the phantom Koko transforms into and the almost unnatural, counter-intuitive physics of Calloway’s glides and moonwalks. Snow-White has been preserved by the National Film Registry and can be found on Blu-ray in Volume 4 of Olive Films’ Betty Boop: The Essential Collections.
Next up, we offer a short film of short films – the indie-animated anthology Ghost Stories (2013). Containing 11 minimalist shorts, Ghost Stories is the product of various members of the Late Nite Work Club crafting these pieces between projects and classes. MMC! is particularly fond of Charles Huettner’s The Jump, Caleb Wood’s Rat Trap, and Alex Grigg’s Phantom Limb, although Ghost Stories is an impressively satisfying effort throughout. In fact, the omnibus format of Ghost Stories produces a convivial effect, expanding the regard for these shorts by placing them alongside one another and creating a whole greater than its parts.
Saskatoon is slightly warming as the week proceeds. I’m reluctant to say this is directly attributable to the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival but after a surprisingly strong Day 2, I see no other credible explanation for it. Including the What the Hell! – Totally Messed Up Short Films block, Day 2 offered 16 different works for consideration, injecting a heavy dose of bizarro randomness into the Festival and creating a decidedly different tone from the previous day’s atmospheric horror extravaganza.
The last days of autumn are leaving Saskatoon and the sharp, cold grip of winter is in the air. It makes for a slightly uncomfortable walk to and from the Broadway Theatre, but perhaps that’s a fitting atmosphere for the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s program of highly honoured films. Those looking for name recognition in its stars or those resistant to reading subtitles are missing out on some of the best genre films of the last year or two. Day 1 of SFFF may prove to have been its strongest, with a brilliant collection of award-winning horror films. Domestic spaces loom prominently in this first block of films, suggesting little safe territory moving forward into the Festival.
I have very fond memories of watching the Ajax Ghost Exterminators on my Fisher Price Movie Viewer. And with its trio of ill-prepared, heavily equipped ghost-hunters and Goofy’s exclamation that “I ain’t a-scared of no ghosts!”, it seems to have a kinship with another all-time MMC! favourite – Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters (1984). For those looking for a little trivia, the ghosts in the “Old McShiver mansion” are reportedly named Jasper, Grubb, Boo, and Moss.