Pikilina is a Dominican-born woman of Haitian descent. Racial and political violence erupt when the country of her birth, the Dominican Republic, reverses its birthright citizenship law and she is left stateless, along with over 200,000 others.

VARIETY

Suzan Beraza’s “Massacre River" examines the fallout of a 2013 constitutional court ruling in the Dominican Republic that effectively rescinded citizenship rights for more than 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent. Against a backdrop of rising populism and the spread of mob violence, Beraza uses one woman’s struggle to prove her birthright as a way to look at “how systems and politics and agendas are being used to turn us against each other,” according to Smith. “It’s painting on a broader canvas, it is a bigger-picture story.”

 

Shane Smith, Hot Docs director of programming
Synopsis: 

MASSACRE RIVER: THE WOMAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY is a character-driven documentary that takes place in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, two ethnically and culturally distinct countries that have been forced to share an island since colonial times.

The film follows Pikilina, a Dominican-born woman of Haitian descent, and her family. Racial and political violence erupt when the country of her birth, the Dominican Republic, reverses its birthright citizenship law, and she is left stateless, along with over 200,000 others.

Reviews

Director's Commentary: 

MASSACRE RIVER: THE WOMAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY takes place in the Dominican Republic and Haiti (Hispaniola), one of the Caribbean islands of my childhood. I am Latina and was looking for a story that would allow me to spend time with family while rediscovering the places where I was raised. During research for the film, the Dominican Constitutional Court reinterpreted their constitution and reversed birthright citizenship, stripping Dominican nationality from over 200,000 Dominican-born people of Haitian descent, including one of the characters we had been following, Pikilina, in what appeared to be a racist change in policy.

Being a lighter-skinned Latina growing up in the Caribbean, I regularly witnessed disturbing prejudices against those who are darker-skinned. It felt as though this policy was one of ethnic cleansing, purging those who are darkest, and exposing a deeply rooted discrimination that has long been prevalent not only on the island, but worldwide.

Pikilina’s story is a haunting example of what happens when a government decides to deny an entire race or nation of people. With nationalism rising globally, what is unfolding in the Dominican Republic has become another illustration of the alarming and abhorrent impacts of xenophobia and lack of empathy and compassion for the “other."