August 3, 2010, Pima County, Arizona—Deep in the sun-blistered Sonora desert beneath a cicada tree, 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?
Marc Silver’s masterful documentary assembles the answers to these questions using beautifully realized dramatic sequences with famed actor Gael García Bernal. Silver and Bernal reconstruct this John Doe, denied an identity at his point of death, into a living and breathing human being with a full and deeply engaging life story. Unfolding like a thrilling crime drama, the film builds to an emotionally devastating climax. Who Is Dayani Cristal? tells the story of one migrant who found himself in that deadly stretch of desert known as “the corridor of death” and how one life becomes testimony to the tragic results of the U.S. war on immigration.
David Courier, Senior Programmer, Sundance Film Festival.
Winner of Cinematography award at Sundance 2013.