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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 "DayaniCristal." 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 García 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.


Learn more about WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL? and connect with the film here: 

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The Filmmakers

Marc Silver Director

Marc Silver is an independent filmmaker, director of photography and creative producer whose diverse range of films focus on social and human rights issues across the world.

Marc’s portfolio includes the Amnesty International produced short film A LIFE ON HOLD about 17-year-old Libyan refugee Omar, Channel 4 documentary BURNING MAN: CHAOS OR COMMUNITY and THE TORCH, a recent short about his hometown of London revealing the impact of the London riots and the Olympics on those who live in one of the poorest UK neighborhoods.

Marc’s emotive and often highly provocative films paint an intimate portrait of the individual within the wider context of some of the most contentious social issues. He has created content for the BBC, Channel 4, Universal Music, The Guardian, Amnesty International, UNHCR, and The Global Fund and collaborated with artists such as Nitin Sawhney, Michael Nyman, Jamie Cullum, Ben Okri, Matthew Herbert and Cirque Du Soleil.

Marc will enjoy his directorial debut at Sundance with his first feature film, WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL?, partnering with long time collaborator Gael García Bernal and producers Thomas Benski and Lucas Ochoa from Pulse Films. Marc is currently developing a new feature-length documentary about the profound effects of drinking ayahuasca, a powerful psychedelic brew made by Amazonian shamans. 

Gael García Bernal Producer

Having worked as an actor in his native Mexico since childhood, Gael García Bernal made his feature film debut in Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu’s Academy Award-nominated AMORES PERROS. His breakthrough performance in the universally acclaimed film earned him a Silver Ariel Award (Mexico’s equivalent of the Oscar) as well as a Silver Hugo Award at the Chicago International Film Festival, both as Best Actor.

Gael García Bernal’s next film role was in another globally celebrated feature, Alfonso Cuaron’s Academy Award®-nominated NO and Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN, starring opposite his lifelong friend Diego Luna. For their performances, the two friends were jointly voted the Marcello Mastroianni Award at the Venice International Film Festival. In 2008 he starred alongside Diego Luna again in RUDO Y CURSI.

He subsequently starred in the title role of Carlos Carrera’s Academy Award®-nominated romantic drama EL CRIMEN DEL PADRE AMARO (The Crime of Father Amaro). His performance earned him the Silver Goddess Award for Best Actor from the Mexican Cinema Journalists, as well as a nomination from the Chicago Film Critics’ Association for Most Promising Performer.

Since 2004, Gael García Bernal has starred in important films like THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES directed by Walter Salles, LA MALA EDUCACION (Bad Education) directed by Pedro Almodovar and BABEL directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu.

In addition to acting, Gael García Bernal has taken on the roles of both director and producer. He founded the production company Canana, with his close friend, actor Diego Luna and producer Pablo Cruz. Canana was established in order both to further the awareness of the popularity of Mexican Cinema and to prove that Mexican independent films can find local audiences as well.

In 2009 Bernal starred in LIMITS OF CONTROL with Tilda Swinton and directed by Jim Jarmusch as well as MAMMOTH with Michelle Williams and directed by Lukas Moodysson. In 2010, he starred in EVEN THE RAIN directed by Icíar Bollaín and LETTERS TO JULIET with Amanda Seyfried. Recently, Gael starred in CASA DE MI PADRE with Will Ferrell and Diego Luna as well as A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN starring alongside Kate Hudson and Kathy Bates. Most recently, Gael starred in the film NO directed by Pablo Larrain which premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and will be released in LA and NY on February 15, 2013. He also stars in WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL? which will premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in January 2013 and is currently filming DESERTED CITIES.


Lucas Ochoa Producer

Trained as a journalist, Lucas began his career working with award-winning Director and Executive Producer Kevin Toolis and former CIA Officer Robert Baer on the third part of their critically acclaimed series THE CULT OF THE SUICIDE BOMBER. He went onto work with them again as Associate Producer on the Channel 4 special CAR BOMB which looked at the history of asymmetric warfare and the future of counterinsurgency.

As Head of Film at Pulse Films his first producing credit was 2010’s Grammy nominated and Grierson short-listed NO DISTANCE LEFT TO RUN- the definitive account of the British band Blur. His next film was the feature documentary SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS, capturing the final days of LCD Soundsystem and their live finale at Madison Square Garden, which was an official selection at Sundance 2012. As Head of Film he is responsible for all feature length films produced by the company and has executive produced WEREWOLVES ACROSS AMERICA and LOOK BACK, DON’T STARE. Ochoa is currently in production on IN YOUR VOICE, IN YOUR HEART - the story of Edwyn Collins’ remarkable recovery from a devastating stroke.

Thomas Benski Producer

Thomas Benski is the CEO of Pulse Films, a talent management and integrated content production company that creates content across different platforms. A BAFTA and Grammy nominated producer, he has produced over 60 music videos and commercials, a dozen short films, 4 TV series, 3 feature films and a number of interactive projects.

Most recently in 2012 he produced SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS, the film about the breakup of LCD Soundsystem, which was an official selection at Sundance 2012. He also produced the feature length documentary LOOK BACK, DON’T STARE about the return of Robbie Williams to Take That. The film was broadcast after X-Factor in the UK and attracted an audience of 5 million. Other credits include the Grammy-nominated and Grierson short-listed documentary NO DISTANCE LEFT TO RUN, the definitive history of the band Blur in 2010, and he co-produced KATY PERRY: PART OF ME in 2012.


December 31, 1969

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Festivals & Awards

Sundance Film Festival


Day One Film

Winner - Cinematography Prize



Hot Docs International Film Festival


New York Film Festival


Abu Dhabi Film Festival


Winner - Grand Jury Documentary Prize


A deeply moving doc finds a new way of making the immigration debate personal...It should be required viewing for anyone involved in making or enforcing border policy.”

-The Hollywood Reporter

Breathtakingly beautiful”

-The Guardian

Intimate and illuminating, the film is a tragic tale, giving very human faces to a growing international problem.”

-Scene Creek


Every year tens of thousands of people, driven by grinding poverty, leave their homes in Central and South America and journey through Mexico hoping to reach the USA. Their dreams often turn into nightmares as they brave one of the most dangerous journeys in the world, traveling along a stretch of desert called the “corridor of death.” Over the past decade some 2000 migrants have died this way in Arizona alone.

In the award-winning documentary WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL?, the filmmakers, Gael García Bernal and Marc Silver, told the story of one such undocumented migrant who died in this way. The unknown man comes to represent the issues faced by all migrants who follow his path. The film’s social impact campaign aimed to humanize and universalize the migration story, while creating direct pathways to action, and allowing audiences to go deeper into issues related to migration, gain more in-depth knowledge on partners’ advocacy work via original digital content, and participate in real world action.

For more information about the outreach and audience engagement campaign for WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL?, please visit their impact site:

Outreach Resources

Ways to Take Action


Border Stories


Colibri Center for Human Rights

A family advocacy organization working to end migrant death and related suffering on the U.S.-Mexico border.


"Continued Humanitarian Crisis at the Border"

Binational Migration Institute Report


Frontline: Map

U.S. Detention Boom


World Policy Journal

Salon Blog: U.S. Border Security: A Death Sentence?


"Beyond the Border Buildup"

WOLA (Washington Office on Latin America) Report on the Impact of Security Policies on the Border