VLAFF 2014: Who Is Dayani Cristal? is an unforgettable migration story

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      Who Is Dayani Cristal?

      Who Is Dayani Cristal? is a heartbreaking look at the risk that migrants from Central America and Mexico face in their journeys to reach “el Norte”.

      In this Marc Silver directed documentary, Mexican actor Gael García Bernal retraces the steps of a migrant from Honduras to the U.S. Throughout his journey, he joins undocumented migrants as they hop onto a train, cross a border on a raft, and sleep on cardboard in a shelter.

      In contrasting scenes, the filmmakers slowly piece together the story of an unidentified man found dead in the Sonora desert. Pima County police only have one thing to go by since his wallet carries no identification: the tattoo on his chest of the name Dayani Cristal.

      In the morgue, the camera captures grisly and often haunting shots, like the “mass grave” consisting of lockers containing the ashes of unidentified migrants.

      The way Silver and Bernal weave together the two intersecting aspects of the film, slowly piecing together the story of the Honduran man and the family that he departed on his journey for, is moving and extremely effective.

      In the end, the viewer is left mulling the sobering statistics on migrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border. And by personifying that uncompleted journey of so many through one man’s story, the filmmakers drive home an unforgettable example of the impacts of U.S. border policies.

      Who Is Dayani Cristal? screens today (August 31) at the Cinematheque at 6:30 p.m.