Mexican journalists reporting on disappearances crisis to present "Principled Voices" Scallen Lecture

Visit paired with film screening of "Until We Find Them"
Dalia Souza, Darwin Franco, and Hunter Johnson standing closely smiling.

Independent journalists, Darwin Franco and Dalia Souza, prepare to travel later this month from Guadalajara, Mexico to Minnesota to discuss their work reporting on disappearances in Mexico. With more than 90,000 disappearances recognized by the Mexican government, the issue looms large and the path for these journalists shedding light on the crisis is challenging and risk-filled. Franco and Souza’s investigative work lifts up the voices of families searching to find their loved ones while detailing how the government has repeatedly failed to help them in their search. 

The Human Rights Program is honored to be preparing a Minnesota welcome to Franco and Souza as our 2021 “Principled Voices” Scallen lecturers, slated to appear during our “Mobilizing Knowledge to Advance Human Rights” 20th Anniversary Symposium, November 18-19, 2021. Franco and Souza will share details of their work and the role journalists play in addressing human rights violations following a special screening of Until We Find Them on Thursday, November 18th at 7pm at Cowles Auditorium in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Until We Find Them, a 30 minute documentary produced by Hunter Johnson (MHR ‘20), tells the story of Franco and Souza, and their efforts to use their journalistic skills to communicate hope and preserve memory in the face of horrific events. The film has gained the attention of numerous film festivals in Mexico and the United States over the past several months, providing opportunities for engagement with diverse audiences globally, and we are tremendously grateful for the opportunity to air it here at the University of Minnesota.

The Mexican government currently recognizes that there are over 90,000 missing or disappeared persons in the country. The actual number, however, is estimated to be much higher caused by the underreporting of cases due to fear and government distrust. Journalists also fall victim to this violence and the Mexican government often does little to investigate and prosecute crimes against journalists. The phenomenon of enforced disappearances in Mexico makes journalists' jobs extremely vital but also very dangerous. More about journalism in Mexico.

Until We Find Them made its debut in April 2021 in coordination with the Program’s virtual public launch of the Observatory on Disappearances and Impunity in Mexico’s UMN-based online database. The “Observatory” is a research-practice collaborative to systematically investigate, analyze, and combat patterns of impunity regarding enforced disappearances. The public launch of UMN’s research data and analysis included a virtual screening of the film and a panel discussion featuring Johnson, Franco, and Souza. 

Since its debut, Until We Find Them has been screened at Shorts México, Cine Las Americas, DOQUMENTA Film Festival, Social Justice Film Festival, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, among others. At Cine Las Americas, a film festival dedicated to screening films written by or about Latinos/Indigneous peoples, the film won “The Audience Choice Award for Best Short Documentary,” and at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival the film was named “Best of the Fest.” The film has also been displayed at various private screenings to raise awareness and generate support for causes related to disappearances, and in academic settings where it has educated audiences on this issue from a human rights framework. Filmmaker Johnson says he is “honored to have had these opportunities and hope(s) to continue to have screenings that deliver the film’s important message to a wide audience”. 

Most recently, Until We Find Them appeared in Mexico City at “Hasta Encontrarnos”, a collaboration between DocsMX and GIZ emphasizing how everyday hundreds of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends in Mexico go out in search of their loved ones that have been disappeared. Johnson states that he is “endlessly inspired by the determination, dignity, community, and empathy of those searching for their loved ones, fighting for truth and justice, and trying to put an end to this cycle.” The event highlighted how documentaries are a powerful tool to support families and mobilize others to join them in their efforts. Johnson is pleased that the film is “finding a home in Mexico among film festivals and thematic screenings dealing with the issue, as well as how international audiences have come away with new knowledge and wondered how they can support family collectives and journalists in Mexico”. He states that the two main objectives of the film are to use an academic platform to elevate the work of individuals who combat disappearances in Mexico as well inform an international audience on Mexico’s disappearance crisis. 

We hope you’ll join us on November 18th at 7 pm for this unique opportunity to learn more about the courageous work of Darwin Franco and Dalia Souza - both through the intimate portrayal of their work in Until We Find Them, and in their conversation directly with the audience following the film screening. Filmmaker Hunter Johnson will also be with us for the evening, sharing a few of his observations from working closely with Franco and Souza to produce the film. 

To register for the “Principled Voices” screening and discussion, visit the symposium webpage, where a full symposium schedule, session descriptions, and speaker bios can also be found. 

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