Talk about timely. This Canadian documentary directed by Michele Stephenson really sheds light on systematic racism, the fight for social justice, street protests, and electoral corruption. Phew! It is a lot, especially with the backdrop of what is going on right now, but so necessary. So necessary to see the extent of the impact of racism and that it is happening in every part of the globe.
I have, like many Quebecers, been to the Dominican Republic on vacation. The beaches, climate and people were lovely. So lovely that it hid what is going on there. That Dominicans of Haitian descent have been stripped of their citizenship and left stateless. They have no place to legally live and apparently no nationality.
This has been an ongoing problem in the Dominican. Dictator Rafael Trujullo back in 1937 went on a rampage to tighten up his country’s borders (sound familiar?) and “whiten” up the Dominican. To achieve this he ordered the massacre of thousands of Haitians living there. It was so crazed that even dark skinned Dominicans fell victim to it.
Another wave of racism rose up in 2013 when the Dominican Constitutional Court withdrew the citizenship of Dominicans of Haitian descent retroactively to 1929. In plain English, even people who were born in the Dominican were included in this. This meant that over 200,000 people were left without homes or even a country to call their own.
The injustice of it all is incredible. Thankfully there are Dominicans like young attourney Rosa Iris who is fighting against it. She is helping these people who find themselves without status to fight for what was taken from them.
Racism that has been state sanctioned. The history of the island of Hispaniola (island comprised of the countries of Haiti and Dominican Republic) has been a complex one. One littered with tragedy, poverty and race issues. Here we not only see the racism in a theoretical or group way; it is personal. We get to see several people who have had their lives turned upside down because of this new law. How in the Dominican that Haitians have been constructed as the “other”. Those who are different, darker, lesser, and violent. We hear a woman who is a supporter of making the Dominican a place for “true” Dominicans. She keeps saying how she doesn’t hate Haitians, but that she wants them out of the country. That they are all violent, rapists and to be feared. The ugly head of racism is reared.
Unless films like this are made we don’t hear about such stories. They are hidden from our view…or we turn our backs on them just wanting to lay on the beaches in the sun during our vacations. The film really brings to light that we all have to do something. We all have to fight no matter where on the planet the injustices are occuring.
Today more and more there seems to be a divide between rich and poor, have and have not. The have nots are being marginalized and find themselves in very vulnerable positions. To combat this we need strong people telling strong stories. This is exactly where Michele Stephenson’s film slots in.
A combo National Film Board and Telefilm Canada production, Stateless is a beautifully shot film which will have you in a mess emotionally, but realizing that the silver lining here is that there are people like Rosa Iris everywhere who are willing to fight for what is right. Fight for equality and social justice. No matter the cost to themselves.