Following a 2013 decree from the Supreme court of the Dominican Republic, 200,000 people of Haitian parentage were stripped of their citizenship, resurrecting a legacy of state violence and racial oppression that was never truly asleep in the first place. With great lucidity and compassion, Michèle Stephenson’s Stateless explores this ruling’s aftermath and ongoing impact. The film follows tenacious attorney Rosa Iris as she confronts labyrinthine government bureaucracy, seeking justice and status for those left stateless, including her own cousin, Teofilo. These efforts are cannily juxtaposed with those of Dominican Nationalist Gladys Feliz, against a backdrop of fiery rhetoric from hardline then-president Danilo Medina. Stylistically, Stateless is a masterful balance of journalistic rigour, intimate character study and a poetic sensibility rooted in elemental gravitas. There is an acute sensitivity to the trauma of the disenfranchised, but it offers no easy solutions. At its core, Stateless is a stark reminder that power hoarded by a mercenary few poses a threat to us all, whether it’s hiding in plain sight or waiting to pounce at the cold stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen.
Review by: Jim Kolmar
HISPANIOLA PRODUCTIONS in co-production with The NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA