Winner—Hot Docs Special Jury Prize – Canadian Feature Documentary
Those of Haitian descent within the Dominican Republic find themselves stripped of their citizenship in Stateless. Since colonial rule, there have been racial tensions between the nations of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, both of which share the island of Hispaniola. In 2013, the Dominican Constitutional Court revoked the citizenship of Dominicans of Haitian descent, leaving over 200,000 people with no claim to nationality or homeland. Rosa Iris is a young Dominican-Haitian attorney, who fights for the rights of Dominicans with Haitian descent, which leads to her running for Congress.
Stateless is a documentary from filmmaker Michèle Stephenson about the controversial law in the Dominican Republic that strips those of Haitian descent of their citizenship, even if they were born in the country, all while President Danilo Medina maintains a public facade of equality. One of the individuals left without a claim to a homeland is Rose Iris’ cousin Juan Teofilo, who vows to reclaim his status and leave the country with his children. The film also follows Gladys Feliz-Pimentei, a member of the Dominican Nationalist Movement, which holds extremely xenophobic opinions about Haitians.
Even though the racial tensions between the Dominican Republic and Haiti have been going on for generations, including the 1937 Haitian genocide ordered by Dictator Rafael Trujillo, the current political situation in the country is eerily similar to the current tensions between the United States and Mexico, complete with the Dominican Nationalists saying that a wall should be constructed at the Dominican-Haitian border. While Rosa Iris starts off as a somewhat optimistic primary subject, she soon finds out during her campaign for Congress that the political arena is all about strategy and money. Altogether, Stateless is yet another example of the xenophobia and racism that plagues the world.