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Haiti: Elena film Celebrates Haitian Heritage in the Dominican Republic

Michèle Stephenson’s documentary short finds beauty in qualities of Haitian life which the Dominican government scorns.

The closer one gets to the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the more dubious it becomes. The two nations’ continuous territorial struggle stems from their contrasting colonial and revolutionary experiences. No matter their proximity or the links between them, there is an inherent need for power structures in the Dominican Republic to keep any Haitian influence at bay.

A follow-up to her feature Stateless, Michèle Stephenson’s new documentary short Elena is an intimate and engrossing portrait of how the specters of historical traumas haunt Dominicans of Haitian heritage, who are relegated to the fringes of social acceptance. Though neither film deals directly with dictator Rafael Trujillo’s 1937 massacre of tens of thousands of people of Haitian descent, both focus on the ways that event still echoes through contemporary institutionalized racism — particularly the Dominican Republic’s 2013 Supreme Court ruling which revoked the citizenship of anyone with Haitian parents

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