• Sundance Film Festival

    Cinematography Award
  • Imagen Awards

    Best Documentary Nominee
  • San Sebastian International Film Festival

  • New York Film Festival

  • Miami International Film Festival

  • True/False Film Festival

  • HotDocs Film Festival

Spanish Film Club
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English and Spanish w/ English subtitles

With Gael García Bernal

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 forensic anthropologists 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.

Winner of the Sundance 2013 Cinematography award and nominated in the World Documentary Competition,Who Is Dayani Cristal? shows how one life becomes testimony to the tragic results of the U.S. war on immigration.


“Through a novel combination of investigation and quasi-reenactment, Marc Silver and Gael Garcia Bernal have found a haunting way of telling their story that respects its particulars while illuminating the ways in which the story is far too common. It should be required viewing for anyone involved in making or enforcing border policy, not to mention the blowhards who have made a cottage industry out of debating it.” – John DeFore, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

“Breathtakingly beautiful.” – Damon Wise, THE GUARDIAN

“It’s an important documentary for the reasons documentaries are important: It puts a human face to a dehumanized issue.”BEARING NEWS

“Beautifully shot.” – Roque Planas, THE HUFFINGTON POST

“Puts what had to have been formidable reporting to excellent use.” – Daphne Howland, VILLAGE VOICE

“A thought-provoking documentary that takes a personal look at a large hot-button topic, this is recommended.” – C. Cassady, VIDEOLIBRARIAN

“Everyone loved the film. Students were very moved and inspired by the film. Many were not aware of many of the issues that the immigrants faced. The film was beautifully filmed; very artistic and very informative at the same time.” – Alexandra Martinez PhD., Assistant Professor, Jacksonville State University

“The audience really liked it, and the students said that everyone in the U.S. should watch it because now they have a different perspective on immigration.” – Marina Carracedo Mateo, Lecturer Spanish and Portuguese, UCLA

“Audiences loved this documentary and they were surprised to see such a good balance between the main star and its role in the documentary. I found this work really stunning. It was a great mix of document and fiction.” – Sara Villa, Assistant Professor of Spanish, The New School

About the 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 enjoyed 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.

Notes on Film

Who Is Dayani Cristal? began life in 2008 as a shared conviction between Gael García Bernal, Marc Silver, Thomas Benski, and Lucas Ochoa that they wanted to tell a story about what Bernal calls “one of the main factors that has shaped the history of mankind and the planet: migration.”

At first the idea was ‘to think of something that we could transform into a film or TV series. It started with the word Rebels and later turned into Resist – It was a great idea… “Fortunately both words got transformed into something much more abstract and less descriptive as we went through the development process” explains Bernal.

To refine the idea, Marc Silver and the team created an online platform that allowed people to submit stories they found interesting around this theme: “we received stories about resistance from all over the world – from a woman in South Africa that decided to place symbolic stones that would delineate her home, to a Spanish person that confronted the bank lending system. A particular and pertinent issue came about which was the demonization of migrants all over the world. Migrants that are obligated to become so by the world status quo, by economic laws and trade, by war and many other reasons including climate change. Here we found a story that was completely transversal; we could talk about all the pressing issues of the world by focusing on migration” adds Bernal.