Three of Mexico's most successful filmmakers are speaking out to criticize the government of their homeland after the remains of 43 college students were discovered this week.
Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu issued a joint statement Monday night, saying: "We believe that these crimes are systemic and indicate a much greater evil — the blurred lines between organized crime and high-ranking officers in the Mexican government."
Speaking today on The Frame on KPCC, del Toro said, "We may be in exile. We may live traveling all over the world, or work all over the world, but at the end of the day, we are Mexican citizens."
The Museum of Modern Art produced a tribute to Cuarón Monday night, which Cuarón, his son Jonas, and del Toro turned into a political platform. (Iñárritu was not in attendance.) Del Toro used his time on stage to read the statement.
On Tuesday, he told KPCC that he and his colleagues picked their moment on purpose:
We wanted to really make sure that the right people and the right press were around to talk about the situation. It's something that a lot of people pile up with "drug war casualties." The reality in Mexico is that the people that are being killed are not just gang members killing gang members or the army killing gang members. It's really civilians and, in this case, students.
Some 74 people have been detained so far in a case that prosecutors have said started when police, reportedly under orders of the mayor of Iguala, detained the students and turned them over to a drug gang. The students were shot, their bodies were burned and the remains were put into trash bags and dumped into a river. Two suspects reportedly confessed and led authorities to the remains.
What do you think is the value of artists like yourself and your colleagues in speaking out against the government?
It's very important for us to talk first and foremost like citizens, you know? We may be in exile, we may live traveling all over the world and work all over the world, but at the end of the day we are Mexican citizens and it's very important that you can give voice to a problem in an international arena to really call attention to the fact that there is rampant and brutal violation of human rights right next to the United States. We're not talking about some faraway country, we're next door neighbors, and this is something that needs to be called attention upon again and again and again, as many times as one can.
You came to the United States for your career, but also because Mexico had become too dangerous. Do you hope to go back and live there again?
I would certainly hope so, the only reason we are in exile is because of the outcome of the kidnapping of my father and the fact that I have that very, very harrowing experience that we went through. The 72 days of that kidnapping — it is not a paranoid or a hyper-precaution measurement, it's a reality for me. But nevertheless, it's important at the same time to function in a way that you don't have fear and you can speak about these things and speak about the current climate in Mexico.
Do you feel, as an artist who is not living in Mexico, that you have more freedom to speak out than those living in Mexico?
We are adding our voice to voices of colleagues and friends of many, many years [who] live in Mexico — filmmakers that we grew up with, including Bertha Navarro — my producer on "Cronos" and "Pan's Labyrinth" and "Devil's Backbone" — who is very active there and is [cinematographer] Guillermo Navarro's sister, so I think that it doesn't matter where you live, it's very powerful and very important to [speak out].
Official statement read by Guillermo del Toro at MoMA:
This past September, 43 students were kidnapped by the local police in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. After a period of apathy, the authorities only then were forced to search for them, due to the protestations of citizens across the entire country and the world, and they found the first of many, many mass graves. None of these graves contained the remains of the missing students. The bodies within them were those of other anonymous victims. Last week, the general attorney announced that the 43 students were handed over by the police to members of a drug cartel to be executed and burned in a public dumpster. But even of the identity of those charred remains awaits proper DNA.
The federal government argues that these events are all just local violence — not so. As Human Rights Watch observes, these killings and forced disappearances reflect a much broader pattern of abuse and are largely a consequence of the longstanding failure of the Mexican authorities. ... We believe that these crimes are systemic and indicate a much greater evil: the blurred lines between organized crime and the high-ranking officials in the Mexican government. We must demand the answers about this and we must do it now.
We would like to take this opportunity to ask you all to join us in the pain and indignation felt by the families of the disappeared students and of every civilian in Mexico who is living with this atrocious reality on an every day basis and to at least be aware of this systematic human rights violation taking place so often and so close to you.