The Search & the Paulette case: The Story that Shook Mexico

12/06/2020

Netflix premieres the mini-series "The Search", based on the case of the death of the girl Paulette Gebara in 2010. This project comes after the success that was "Crime Diaries: The Candidate" and also "Crime Diaries: Night Out".

The case of Paulette Gebara in the Netflix mini series The Search. Image: Netflix
The case of Paulette Gebara in the Netflix mini series The Search. Image: Netflix

The actor Fernando Bonilla, who is part of the cast, shares in an interview the challenges of developing a story based on a real event that to date still has unanswered questions.

This case of Paulette was among the most controversial a decade ago, the little girl was reported missing and days later she was found dead in her room between the mattress of her bed. In this miniseries, besides Fernando, Regina Blandón, Darío Yazbek, Diana Bovio and Mario Monroy also participate.

"The investigation was carried out (in those years) with so many opacities and with a rather questionable result. It is a public issue that as a society we have to review and remember, and the most important thing in a series like this is to contribute to the fact that in a country like ours, with such easy loss of memory, we remember justice scandals like this one".

In fact, the common denominator of the plots presented in "History of a Crime" is the lack of transparency in these cases that became public. "I don't know if there is a project to make another mini-series, another season, but in the cases of Colosio and Paulette there are similarities in that the investigations were dubious, elements that have not come to light, obstacles deliberately put in the way of the investigation with all the norms, and the most painful thing as a society and as spectators is that at the end of watching both series we are left with more questions than answers, making our own hypothesis of what could have happened".

As for the character he plays, Bonilla says he gives life to a policeman who works in complicity with the character played by Mario Monroy, who is also a policeman. "They constantly fall into the game we have seen many times of the good cop and the bad cop, they are fictional characters and I think this relaxed a little the way of approaching them and working with them, since there was not the responsibility and rigor that the characters based on real people had to have. So, this allowed us to improvise, something that director Santiago Limón was looking for a lot, they called Mario and me because we have many years of working together and doing improvisation".

"(The series) premiered on June 12 and it was a big unknown because the production was very tight from the beginning and none of the actors have had a chance to see the series, so I'm looking forward to seeing how it looks, so like everyone else, I'll watch it until it's on Netflix. About participating in a high quality and research project like this, he says it has been a very enriching experience.

"It's a first-class production, very serious, with great audiovisual quality, I think they made a very good team, a very solid cast and touching on a delicate, difficult and controversial subject, I think it will be a series that will divide opinions and generate positive and negative comments, but in the end, it's very appropriate that the series focused more on the subject of research than on family history".

Finally, Fernando points out that the viewer will see an exciting story where this particular fiction has the peculiarity of being based on an event that shocked Mexican society, "I hope that this will encourage a review of the actions of our public officials, it's a fact of 10 years ago, a very unique and paradigmatic case of justice, where this historical truth that was reached was very questionable, a warning sign regarding the immediate future, it's special to the presidential elections that happened two years later".

A strange disappearance

"Story of a Crime: The Search" is based on the disappearance and death of the girl Paulette, daughter of Lizette Farah and Mauricio Gebara. The girl, born in 2005, suffered from motor disability and language problems. It all began in the spring of 2010, on March 21, 2010. That Sunday night, she returned to her home in Huixquilucan with her sister and father, after which her mother left her in her room, presumably for the last time.

The next morning, Monday, March 22, one of the little girl's nannies noticed her absence, which she reported to Paulette's parents, according to the official version. They immediately reported the disappearance to relatives, and later gave information to the state prosecutor's office. Immediately the mystery emerged, because the building had no signs of having been raided, with the plates intact and the impossibility of her leaving on her own (as she had a motor disability).

From Tuesday, March 23, a series of events would mark the course of history where the parents were actively involved, since the disappearance of the girl Paulette seemed like magic. The case became a media one, with the uncertainty of the whereabouts and the lack of suspects, as well as a process full of inconsistencies.

Based on the reconstruction of the facts on the ground, on Wednesday 31 March the girl's body was found in the same room where in fact her parents gave television interviews.

Experts specializing in disappearances and dogs that sniffed around the home days before had not noticed the presence of the mortal remains of the infant, who remained after her death due to "mechanical asphyxiation due to obstruction of the nasal cavities and thorax-abdominal compression," according to the autopsy carried out days later. The exact location was the foot of the bed, wrapped in sheets.

Already in April, the case develops with the public confrontation between both parents, since the inconsistencies in their statements make the discrepancy evident. Only the family of Mauricio Gebara attended the funeral (at the French Pantheon in Mexico City), while only the maternal family attended the funeral procession and the burial of the coffin with the girl. The quarrel would continue over the custody of Lizette, their eldest daughter. Seven years later, in May 2017, Paulette's body was exhumed for cremation.

Outstanding issues besides Paulette

History of a Crime: The Search is only one of many television productions that have sought to reflect a real fact; however, UNAM academic Miguel Ángel Quemain Sáenz adds that more stories like these are still needed.

He argues that viewers nationwide must see and know all the stories that have caused uncertainty and turmoil in real life, such as the 2017 earthquake and the ABC daycare fire, as well as the situations that most Mexicans have faced in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Quemain Sáenz comments that the series on the death of little Paulette must be well documented and researched in order to be of greater interest and gain more value, just like other international series, such as Jeffrey Epstein: Disgustingly Rich or The Valhalla Murders.

"If you don't have the truth or as much research as possible on stories like these, Netflix will continue to produce things that are neither cinema nor literature, there must be a need for research," says the also psychoanalyst.