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Political documentary “Who is Dayani Cristal?” shows life and death in the Mexico-USA border
Translated by Carolina Van Moorsel
“To migrate is a complex issue. There are many reasons why people leave their houses, and many
reasons why the borders are so dangerous”. The Mexico-USA border is one of the more surveyed and
lethal of the planet, but continues being an immigration route for those who are after the “American
The documentary “Who is Dayani Cristal?” is based in these death and survival stories that take place in
the border. It received an award in the 2013 edition of the Sundance festival and it is currently one of
the most important documentaries of the independent movie industry. The movie is the result of the
efforts of director Marc Silver and actor Gael García Bernal. Gael is also the protagonist of the story told
in the documentary. This is not the first immigration production Gael has been involved with. He was in
charge of “The Invisibles”, made to the Mexican International Amnesty in 2010.
The movie is not yet available in movie theaters (in the official website a disclaimer reads “soon in
theaters”), with the exception of programmed showings in many cities in the United States and in some
European countries. The trailer available in the internet and in the movie’s website provides an idea of
what the movie is about.
The start point is a decomposing body found in the middle of the desert in Arizona (United States). The
body has a tattoo that reads “Dayani Cristal”. From there, the movie tells the story of an immigrant
(played by Gael) who found himself in the dangerous part of the desert known as the “death aisle” and
it shows how life becomes a testimony to the tragic consequences of the United States war against
The movie doesn’t only explore who or what meant the writing found in the body, but also the process
that makes people migrate and assume the risks that can cost them their lives. It tries to humanize the
theme of immigration and to get away from the national security approach that it normally receives in
the United States and in other countries around the world.
The positive reviews it received make the documentary even more important. In one of them, the
Hollywood Reporter says it that “a deeply moving doc finds a new way of making the immigration
Website and activism
The movie’s website doesn’t restrict itself to promoting the production. Although the movie is not yet
available to the general public, it is possible to explore resources and services made available in the
The “Border Stories” session contains other stories of people that already crossed or at least tried
crossing the Mexico-USA border and invites people who had similar experiences to leave their
In the “Take Action” session you can find links to many initiatives that give support to immigrants in the
United States and in Central America and donate to them. It is also possible to tell the story of people
that disappeared in the border in an attempt to facilitate the search and finding of people – no matter if
they are alive or dead.
Finally, in the “Learn” session the visitor is invited to learn more about immigration. The goal is clear:
“understating immigration helps stopping the deaths in the desert”, announces the page.