A documentary co-produced by one of Mexico’s awarding-winning film directors about the disappearance in 2014 of 43 teaching students will be presented during the Guadalajara International Film Festival.
The film, Ayotzinapa, el paso de la tortuga (Ayotzinapa, The Turtle’s Pace), in development since October 2014 by director Enrique García Meza, is being co-produced by Guillermo del Toro, who won best director and best film at the Academy Awards last week for The Shape of Water.
The film about Ayotzinapa focuses on the mysterious disappearance of students enrolled in a teachers’ college in Guerrero. The official theory is that they were turned over by corrupt municipal police in Iguala, Guerrero, to a crime gang, which killed them and burned their bodies.
An unfinished version of the documentary was presented last year during the Morelia Film Festival, where it won a 50,000-peso grant (US $2,500) for aid in completing post-production work.
At the time, García told the entertainment magazine Variety that the filming process was marked by one word: “fear.”
“Some people who had experienced similar circumstances gave recommendations,” he said in an interview. “At first, I didn’t acknowledge them until one day I received a message at my hotel in Chilpancingo. Apparently the Federal Police, on patrol and in uniform, left a note saying I was ‘invited to stop playing with the camera.'”
The director began to pay more attention to those recommendations.
“There is a fear in speaking out with this documentary as well. I think about the other people who worked on it and worry something might happen to them, or the people around them. It’s not just fear of death, but of disappearance and torture. These things fall into focus when you see the death of journalists, movement leaders or anyone who raises their voices,” García said.
Now finished, the documentary will be screened at the Guadalajara festival, which concludes on Friday.
Co-producer Bertha Navarro Solares recently told the newspaper El Universal that the main idea behind the documentary was to “raise awareness and avoid oblivion, giving a voice to those who no longer speak about something as painful as the Ayotzinapa case.”
“Guillermo del Toro was very interested in the project from the get go . . . which took so long because the idea was to approach the witnesses and earn their trust, thus obtaining a real testimony of the series of events,” said the Mexican producer.
Ayotzinapa, el paso de la tortuga was completed with the collaboration of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), which not only offered support during the production process but will air the documentary on its TV channel, TVUNAM.
The film will also be screened by the traveling film festival Ambulante, with hopes of later obtaining domestic and international distribution.