An average of 200 migrant men, women, and children are found dead each year in the stretch of Sonoran Desert known colloquially as "the Corridor of Death." The Pima County Medical Examiner's Office is faced with the somewhat daunting task of identifying these souls and reuniting them with their families.
Director Marc Silver, along with actor Gael Garcia Bernal, were intrigued by what stories these dead travelers could tell. "I remember seeing an image of a Border Patrol agent holding a skull in a vast empty landscape," Silver says in the press materials for the film. "I thought that following the investigation into an unidentified person would be a fascinating and poetic way of exploring this vital global issue. I literally asked myself, 'What can a skull in an empty desert tell you about the world?'"
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This curiosity evolved into a 2013 Sundance Cinematography Award-winning documentary Who Is Dayani Cristal? The film screens on October 23 at an event hosted by the ACLU of Arizona. The evening will also feature a post-viewing discussion with representatives from the Colibri Center for Human Rights, La Fundacion Para La Justicia, and No More Deaths. Also present will be a family member of a migrant lost in the desert.
The documentary begins when a dead migrant male is found, mostly decomposed and bearing only a tattoo of the words "Dayani Cristal." Several plot lines intertwine to paint a portrait of who this man is, how he wound up alone in the desert, and why he chose to make the journey through the Corridor of Death.
A fictionalized narrative, starring Gael Garcia Bernal, is interspliced throughout the true retelling of the body's discovery and identification. Garcia Bernal travels the path used by migrants from Central America, reflecting on what it means to be an economic immigrant and exploring the means by which this risky journey is made.
Experience the film for yourself on Thursday, October 23, at the ASU Mercado Galleria. The evening will begin at 6 p.m. For more information and for fun facts about economic migration, visit the film's website.