In 1937, tens of thousands of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent were exterminated by the Dominican army, on the basis of anti-black racism. Fast-forward to 2013, the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court stripped the citizenship of anyone with Haitian parents, retroactive to 1929, rendering more than 200,000 people stateless. Director Michèle Stephenson’s new documentary follows the grassroots campaign of a young attorney named Rosa Iris, as she challenges electoral corruption and fights to protect the right to citizenship for all people.
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Through the grassroots campaign of electoral hopeful Rosa Iris, director Michèle Stephenson’s new documentary reveals the depths of racial hatred and institutionalized oppression that divide Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
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Director Michèle Stephenson’s new documentary uncovers the complex history and present-day politics of Haiti and the Dominican Republic through the grassroots electoral campaign of a young attorney named Rosa Iris.
In 1937, tens of thousands of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent were exterminated by the Dominican army, based on anti-black hatred fomented by the Dominican government. Fast-forward to 2013, the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court stripped the citizenship of anyone with Haitian parents, retroactive to 1929. The ruling rendered more than 200,000 people stateless, without nationality, identity or a homeland. In this dangerous climate, a young attorney named Rosa Iris mounts a grassroots campaign, challenging electoral corruption and advocating for social justice. Director Michèle Stephenson’s new documentary Stateless traces the complex tributaries of history and present-day politics, as state-sanctioned racism seeps into mundane offices, living room meetings, and street protests.
Filmed with a chiaroscuro effect and richly imbued with elements of magical realism, Stateless combines gritty hidden-camera footage with the legend of a young woman fleeing brutal violence to flip the narrative axis, revealing the depths of institutionalized oppression.
In 1937, tens of thousands of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent were murdered by the Dominican army, many on the basis of their skin colour alone. The so-called “Haitian Problem” was an attempt to control the border between the two countries and whiten the Dominican population, led by a dictator obsessed with race.
In 2013, the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court stripped the citizenship of anyone with Haitian parents, retroactive to 1929. The ruling rendered more than 200,000 people stateless, without nationality, identity or a homeland.
Director Michèle Stephenson’s new documentary Stateless traces the complex tributaries of history and present-day politics, as state-sanctioned racism seeps into mundane offices, living room meetings, and street protests. Anyone defending marginalized groups faces threats of violence. In this dangerous climate, a young attorney named Rosa Iris mounts a grassroots campaign, challenging electoral corruption and advocating for social justice. As Rosa balances her congressional run with her dedication to her family and community, the full scope of her fight is revealed.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic share a torturous history dating back to colonial rule when France and Spain divided the Island of Hispaniola along cultural and racial lines. Despite historic cross border solidarity and peaceful coexistence between Haitians and Dominicans, waves of state-sponsored violence have continued to ripple out in the form of forced deportations and racialized targeting. As people on either side of the border struggle to navigate a rising tide of nationalist hatred and vigilantism, a humanitarian crisis unfolds, echoing similar immigration catastrophes around the globe.
Filmed in chiaroscuro colours, and shot through with elements of magical realism, Stateless combines gritty hidden-camera footage with the legend of a young woman fleeing brutal violence to flip the narrative axis, revealing the depths of institutionalized oppression.
As a child, growing up in a Haitian and Latinx household and diaspora communities in North America, I continued to overhear stories about the history of my birthplace relating to race, colour, class, colonialism and human rights. Those observations formed the basis of how I made sense of the world that surrounded me, especially as those notions collided with the racism, segregation and discrimination that we faced in our adopted countries. Those experiences fuelled my passion to dig deeper into the consequences of our deeply painful common history of slavery and colonialism and how we continue to internalize such self-hatred.
Stateless in some ways is a culmination of years of working through storytelling approaches that allowed me to land back home and use a creative way to unearth and express that childhood pain.
As a hyphenated Black Latina, I felt compelled to express how deeply embedded the racial caste system is in our Latinx communities and how identity and citizenship are so closely connected to anti-Blackness—and yet its discussion either escapes or is superficially misconstrued by mainstream media.
Stateless highlights universal themes of access to citizenship, migration and systemic racism. In the US, we are witnessing the chipping away at immigrants’ and citizens’ rights. We are facing a global crisis of white supremacist manipulation of migrants’ rights, birthright citizenship, and human dignity for black and brown people.
My objective is to connect the film to a network of committed partners in the Caribbean region, Latin America, the US, and internationally, to utilize the film as a platform for their work on protecting the rights of migrants and citizens, and to deepen people’s understanding of the intersection between anti-Black racism, migration, and citizenship rights.
– Michèle Stephenson, Director/Producer
The NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA, HUNGRY EYES MEDIA, and RADA FILM GROUP present
a film by MICHÈLE STEPHENSON
in co-production with
The NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA
Rosa Iris Diendomi-Álvarez
Written and Directed by
Executive Producer for Black Public Media
Executive Producer for Latino Public Broadcasting
Sandie Viquez Pedlow
Directors of Photography
Pedro Arnau Bros Santana
Music Composed by
Rosa Iris Diendomi-Álvarez
2nd Unit Cinematography
Francisco Alberto Rodriguez
Conrad Louis Charles
Assistant to the Director
Front Row Insurance
For the NFB
Manager, Studio Operations
Technical Coordinator (Toronto)
Technical Coordinator (Montreal)
Digital Editing Technician (Montreal)
Andrew Martin Smith
Head Business Affairs, Distribution
Johnny Álvarez Roja
Juan Bautista Soriano Garcia
Post Project Manager
Additional Re-Recording Mixers
Urban Picture Operations
Williams M. Amaya
Moraime story inspired by the novel El Masacre se Pasa A Pie by Freddy Prestol Castillo
Score recorded and produced by Ben Fox at The Cabin Studios
Michael Peter Olsen – cello
Adrian Cook – clarinet, bass clarinet
Additional score mixing by Dennis Patterson at Big Smoke Audio
Rosa Iris Campaign Song
Lyrics by MC Baby
La Otra Cara
Production and Performed by Azuei
James Vergneau aka Rebel Layonn, Perla Marola, Omar Tavarez aka Pepaflow
Dominican Dembow Instrumental
Written and Performed by Victor Montero
El Jarabe News Show
Presidencia República Dominicana Media Channel
Russian TV (RT)
Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation
National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures Fund for the Arts Grant Program
Sundance Documentary Film Program
TFI Pond5 Program
In Association with
Chicken & Egg Pictures
Telefilm Canada and Rogers Group of Funds through the Theatrical Documentary Program
Produced with the Assistance of
The Hot Docs Ted Rogers Fund
Additional Funding Provided by
Women in Film Finishing Fund
This project was completed with the support of Women Make Moves, Inc.
Produced in association with Black Public Media
Produced in association with Latino Public Broadcasting
This program is a presentation of the Black Public Media and Latino Public Broadcasting
with major funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
© 2020 Hispaniola Productions and the National Film Board of Canada. All rights.