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Deep in the sun-blistered Sonora desert beneath a cicada tree, Arizona border police discover a decomposing male body. Lifting a tattered T-shirt, they expose a tattoo that reads “Dayani Cristal”.
Who is this person? What brought him here? How did he die? And who—or what—is Dayani Cristal?
Following a team of dedicated staff from the Pima County Morgue in Arizona, director Marc Silver seeks to answer these questions and give this anonymous man an identity. As the forensic investigation unfolds, Mexican actor and activist Gael Garcia Bernal retraces this man’s steps along the migrant trail in Central America. In an effort to understand what it must have felt like to make this final journey, he embeds himself among migrant travelers on their own mission to cross the border. He experiences first-hand the dangers they face and learns of their motivations, hopes and fears. As we travel north, these voices from the other side of the border wall give us a rare insight into the human stories which are so often ignored in the immigration debate.
Who Is Dayani Cristal? tells the story of a migrant who found himself in the deadly stretch of desert known as “the corridor of death” and shows how one life becomes testimony to the tragic results of the U.S. war on immigration. As the real-life drama unfolds we see this John Doe, denied an identity at his point of death, become a living and breathing human being with an important life story.
Winner of the Sundance 2013 Cinematography award and nominated in the World Documentary Competition, “Who is Dayani Cristal?” has been described by The Hollywood Reporter as “A deeply moving doc [which] finds a new way of making the immigration debate personal.”