Oscar award-winning director Alfonso Cuarón, who was honored tonight at a MoMA Film Benefit gala highlighting his work, used the opportunity to speak forcefully and indignantly on the 43 students kidnapped in Iguala, Guerrero — an event that has sparked mass outrage and protests in his native Mexico.
“How can you speak of film when this is happening in a country that neighbors yours?,” he asked. “I’m not interested in talking about [film]. We want to join our voices to those who are using every forum available [to protest].”
Standing before an audience that included designer Diane von Fürstenberg, artist Julian Schnabel and actress Katie Holmes, he read a prepared statement, published on El Universal, which we have translated below:
“An event which should be a great celebration has been overshadowed by the events that have taken place in the last month. The disappearance of 43 normalistas, and the subsequent revelations this has brought about transcends local issues. It evidences a systemic problem where, in the best of cases, there is apathy and ineptitude on the part of the authorities, and in the worst of cases there is collusion.
My voice is very irrelevant; the voice that matters is of the people as a whole, who have spoken out and done so very firmly. It’s a voice that is resonating all over the world in a very brave way. We must remember that we are just an extremely minuscule portion of Mexican society. We have to shine a light on the conditions that Mexican society is forced to endure every day. I think that’s much more important,” he concluded.
Guillermo del Toro was also in attendance and echoed Cuarón’s sentiments. “There is a daily violation of human rights in Mexico that is happening at a level that is often invisible. The disappearance of these 43 students literally opened a ton of mass graves,” he said. “It’s incredibly painful for us to see the paths that have been attempted [because they] are the same […] responses that seek to end a dialogue that in fact needs to continue in a more aggressive, strong, and authentic way until we get answers,” he added.
“It’s incredibly important that the people in power understand that the eyes of the world are on Mexico, and that our ability to consider ourselves a nation, to consider ourselves human, will depend on the solidarity we show.”
This is not the first time Cuarón has been vocal about politics. Earlier this year, he penned an open letter to President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto asking pointed questions about energy reform issues.
Update, 11/11 4:48pm:
Though initial reports attributed this speech to Cuarón, a press representative from MoMA has confirmed to us that the majority of their statement was actually read by Guillermo del Toro from a piece of paper while Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron stood on either side of him — the statement was signed by Cuarón, del Toro and Iñárritu, and read as follows:
“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.”