Guillermo del Toro is mourning the deaths of three film students from his hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico. Aspiring directors Javier Salomón Aceves Gastélum, Daniel Díaz, and Marco Ávalo went missing on March 19 while filming a project near the city of Tonala during their Spring Break vacation. All three filmmakers were students at the Universidad de Medios Audiovisuales.
Authorities confirmed this week the students were kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which is one of the largest drug gangs in all of Mexico. CJNG gunmen reportedly confused the teenagers with members from a rival gang. The students’ bodies were dissolved in acid.
“Words are not enough to understand the dimension of this madness,” del Toro wrote on Twitter after the tragic deaths were confirmed. “Three students are killed and dissolved in acid. The ‘why’ is unthinkable, the ‘as’ is frightening.”
The Oscar-winning filmmaker has used his social media page over the last month to raise awareness about the three students’ disappearance. Kidnappings in the state of Jalisco (Guadalajara is the capital) are all too common, with 5,000 disappearances reported as of February 2018, according to NBC News. Reports estimate that 36% of all missing peoples are ages 16 to 28 years old.
“Apparently students being disappeared and dissolved in acid in Mexico is so normal that the fact that Jalisco government has declared this was the fate of Javier, Marco & Daniel has barely made international headlines and caused little stir in national ones,” read a tweet that del Toro shared to his 1.4 million followers.
Del Toro has been using the hashtags #NoSonTresSomosTodxs (which means “we’re not three, it’s all of us”) and #LosTresEstudiantesDeCine (which means “the three film students”) in an attempt to make the news story a trending topic around the world. His Twitter page is full of news stories about the murdered students and re-Tweets sharing information about the tragedy.
The director shared a tweet by British journalist Duncan Tucker: “Apparently the film students were shooting a homework project at a property in Guadalajara, which, unbeknownst to them, was a cartel safe house. It seems that’s all it takes to get you killed and dissolved in acid in Mexico today.”
The disappearances of the students launched numerous protests and calls to action in Jalisco over the last month. Other students at the Universidad de Medios Audiovisuales published a video online on March 23 asking for help in finding their classmates. Both Ávalo and Díaz were 20 years old, while Salomón was 25.
Las palabras no alcanzan para entender la dimensión de esta locura. 3 estudiantes son asesinados y disueltos en ácido. El ¨porqué¨ es impensable, el ¨como¨ es aterrador.
— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) April 24, 2018