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Who is Dayani Cristal?  cover photo

Who is Dayani Cristal? 2013

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Kino Lorber Edu, 333 West 39 St, Suite 503, New York, NY 10018; 212-629-6880
Produced by Pulse Films in association with BRITDOC & Film4 and Lucas Ochoa, Thomas Benski, Gael García Bernal
Directed by Marc Silver
DVD , color, 88 min.



Sr. High - General Adult
Activism, Bias, Dying, Geography, Immigration, Latinos (United States), Law Enforcement, Legislation, Western United States

Date Entered: 06/06/2014

ALA Notable: yes
Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Since the mid-1990s, when federal and state governments began concerted legislative efforts to stem the flow of immigration into the U.S. by sealing off safe routes of passage, the number of deaths along its southern border has more than doubled. Each year, hundreds of undocumented men, women and children lose their lives crossing into the U.S. from Mexico, even as the net number of immigrations has decreased. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, an illegal immigrant is now 8 times more likely to die in the crossing than 10 years ago.

Skillfully interweaving larger themes with a single story, filmmaker Silver effectively explores the tragic human toll of a ruthless and futile policy. The story begins with the discovery a partially decomposed body in the Sonoran desert of Arizona. With no papers and no distinguishing features other than an elaborate chest tattoo, the remains of a young man are taken to the local morgue where dedicated staff members candidly discuss the difficult process of identification and notification of next of kin. At the same time, Mexican actor and activist Gael Garcia Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries), retraces this migrant’s difficult journey from his home in Nicaragua to his final destination, where the mystery of his tattoo is also revealed.

This exceptionally well-done film is the winner of the Sundance 2013 Cinematography award and a nominee and official selection in numerous worldwide film festivals. Script, pacing, editing, music, photography and narration are outstanding. In another example of America’s failed culture wars – whether on poverty, drugs, terrorism, or illegal immigration - this personal story of life and death along a contentious border is highly recommended for all audiences.