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, rendering over 200,000 people stateless, without nationality, identity or homeland. In this climate, a young attorney named Rosa Iris launches a grassroots campaign, taking on electoral corruption and advocating social justice. In Stateless, director Michele Stephenson explores the complex history and present-day politics of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Utilizing elements of magical realism and vivid cinematography, combined with gritty hidden camera footage and the legend of a young woman fleeing brutal violence, the film navigates through offices, living room meetings, and into street protests, revealing the depths and personal impact of institutionalized oppression. In this light, the reality of Rosa’s fight becomes clear, as she must keep a balance between her congressional run, and dedication to her family and community. —Deborah Rudolph
Michèle Stephenson pulls from her Panamanian and Haitian roots and experience as a human rights attorney to tell provocative stories about personal and systemic liberation. She was recently awarded the Creative Capital Fellowship, the Chicken & Egg Pictures Breakthrough Filmmaker Award, and the Guggenheim Fellowship.