Emmy-Nominated Director Michèle Stephenson
Returns to the 2021 Edition of the Tribeca Film Festival
With Her Latest Documentary, STATELESS, Which Will
Have Its National Broadcast Premiere on POV on July 19
The Award-Winning Feature Film Examines the
Complex Racial Histories and Contemporary Politics
of Haiti and the Dominican Republic
After having had its planned world premiere at the 2020 edition of the Tribeca Film Festival cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Stateless (Apátrida), the latest documentary by Emmy-nominated and Sundance-winning director Michèle Stephenson (American Promise) will screen as part of the 2021 edition of the Tribeca Film Festival taking place June 9 to 20, followed by its national broadcast premiere on PBS’ acclaimed documentary series POV, on July 19.
Nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best Feature Length Documentary, and winner of the Best Feature Documentary Award at the BlackStar Film Festival, the Special Jury Prize for a Canadian Feature at Hot Docs International Documentary Festival, and the Best Feature Film Audience Award at the Boston Latino International Film Festival, Stephenson’s newest documentary uncovers the complex histories and present-day politics of Haiti and the Dominican Republic by following the grassroots campaign of a hopeful young attorney named Rosa Iris.
Providing sociopolitical insights that are at once deeply personal and powerfully far-reaching, Stateless reveals the depths of racial hatred and institutionalized oppression dividing two nations tasked with sharing one small island at a moment when the Dominican Republic is raising funds to build a border wall, echoing recent policies in the United States.
The film’s historical foundation rests on the 1937 extermination of tens of thousands of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent by the Dominican army, an action realized due to anti-black hatred itself perpetuated and fomented by the Dominican government. Fast-forward to 2013 and the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court has stripped the citizenship of anyone with Haitian parents, retroactive to 1929, effectively rendering more than 200,000 people stateless.
Addressing these historical markers head-on, Stephenson’s documentary centers Rosa Iris and her campaign as she challenges electoral corruption and fights to protect the right to citizenship for all people. Topics of nationalism, naturalization, birthright citizenship, and the racial implications of government record-keeping take center stage.
Filmed with a chiaroscuro effect and richly imbued with elements of magical realism, the Rada Studio production Stateless combines gritty hidden-camera footage with the legend of a young woman fleeing brutal violence to flip the narrative axis, exposing the magnitude and pervasiveness of racially- informed government discrimination and the inescapable, bureaucratic practices meant to keep Dominican nationalist, and anti-black, policies in place.
Told completely from female perspectives on both sides of the conflict, Stephenson prioritizes the role of women in processes of nation-making, storytelling, and enculturation, or the transmission between generations of notions of self in relation to shared group histories.
Stephenson’s presence at Tribeca this year is also, for perhaps the first time in the festival’s history, a multigenerational affair: her son Idris Brewster will likewise be participating with his own project Kinfolk (co-created with Glenn Cantave and Micah Milner) highlighting BIPOC history-makers through AR. In another impressive feat, Stephenson herself will be represented by not one but two projects in this year’s lineup, her collaborative work with creative partners Joe Brewster and Yasmin Elayat, The Changing Same: Episode One, The Dilemma having also been selected to compete in the Tribeca Immersive section of the festival.
STATELESS. Apátrida, USA/Canada/Dominican Republic/Haiti, 2020, 95 min. In Spanish, and Haitian Creole with English subtitles. Director: Michèle Stephenson; Producers: Lea Marin, Jennifer Holnesss; Executive Producers: Joe Brewster, Anita Lee, Sudz Sutherland; Executive Producer for Black Public Media: Leslie Fields-Cruz; Executive Producer for Latino Public Broadcasting: Sandie Viquez Pedlow; Director of Photography: Alfredo Alcántara, Tito Rodriguez, Naiti Gámez, Nadia Hallgren, Jaime Guerra, Pedro Arnau Bros Santana; Editors: Sophie Farkas-Bolla; Additional Editor: Andres Landau; Sound Editor: Ryan Birnberg; Original Compositions: Ben Fox. Hispaniola Productions in Co-production with the National Film Board of Canada, Hungryeyes Media and Rada Studio.
About the Director:
Filmmaker, artist and author, Michèle Stephenson, pulls from her Panamanian and Haitian roots to think radically about storytelling and disrupt the imaginary in non-fiction spaces. She tells compelling, deeply personal stories that are created by, for and about communities of color that reimagine and provoke. Her feature documentary, American Promise, was nominated for three Emmys and won the Jury Prize at Sundance. Her most recent feature, Stateless, is nominated for a Canadian Screen Award. She is a Guggenheim Fellow and a Creative Capital artist.