Michèle Stephenson | Documentary

2018 | 30 minutes | United States, Dominican Republic

When the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court stripped the citizenship of anyone with Haitian parents, Elena becomes the face of the struggle against the opaque bureaucratic process and a racist, hostile society, to stay in a country built on the labor of her forefathers.


In 1937, tens of thousands of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent were exterminated by the Dominican army, on the basis of anti-black racism. Fast-forward to 2013, the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court stripped the citizenship of anyone with Haitian parents, retroactive to 1929, rendering more than 200,000 people stateless.

Elena has lost her citizenship due to this ruling, and her family stands to lose their rightful access to legal residency in the Dominican Republic if they don’t manage to get their documents on time. Negotiating a mountain of opaque bureaucratic processes and a racist, hostile society, Elena becomes the face of the struggle to stay in a country built on the labor of her father and forefathers.

Director Michèle Stephenson’s documentary follows Elena and her family through their tribulations and small joys, as they fight to remain in the country they’ve called home for generations.


"Elena is a proud celebration of Haitian heritage in the Dominican Republic." — Alonso Aguilar, Hyperallergic

"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." —  Haitian Times

"Elena exposes the immense mundanity of racist governance — and the exhaustion produced by navigating it — where exclusion is managed, more than anything, by bureaucracy and its gatekeepers. In doing so, it powerfully engages with the difficult question of how coloniality and its expression in anti-Black racism can be understood and challenged when they are reproduced largely in the absence of white people." — Larissa Andrea Johnson, Film Quarterly

"Elena spotlights one woman's fight against racism." —  The New York Carib News

Main credits

Stephenson, Michèle (film director)
Stephenson, Michèle (screenwriter)
Stephenson, Michèle (film producer)
Brewster, Joe (film producer)

Other credits

Cinematography, Alfredo Alcántara [and 3 others]; editors, Clementina Martinelli, Jordan Kawai; music, Aquiles Navarro.

women, exile, Immigration, family, border, deportation, Haiti, discrimination, Dominican Republic, identity, nationality, spanish, spanish language, latin america, latin american cinema, latin american film, ibero america, latin, latinx, latino, latina,,racism, discrimination, prejudice, ethnicity, ethnic, race studies, ethnic studies, racist, racial sensitivity, bias, prejudice, racial prejudice, ethnic prejudice, genetics, hereditary, culture, ethnic culture, ethnology, ethnography, ethnic sensitivity,human rights, public rights, equal rights, freedom of expression, basic human rights, united nations, activism, human rights activism, human rights council, human rights commission, universal human rights, universal rights,culture, identity, identity politics, culture wars, left wing, right wing, intersectionality, identity groups, civilization, literacy, humanism, cancel culture, online culture, cultural revolution, cultural diffusion, culture shock, popular culture, pop culture, material culture, cultural capital, cultural assimilation ,history, context, narrative, past, chronicle, lore, annals, historic, personal history, archive, record, saga, biography, memoir, study,political science, micropolitics, macropolitics, political theory, political education, political movements, political thinking, political criticism, poly sci, polysci, political sci, political sciences, political history, history of politics, political systems,migration studies, migrant studies, immigration studies, refugee studies, diaspora studies, resettlement studies, settlement studies, migration, migrant, immigration, refugee, diaspora, resettlement, settlement, refugees, international migration, continental migration, resettling, settlers, settler, migrant, migrant studies, first generation immigrant, first generation immigration, new americans, new spaniards,international relations, global relations, global studies, international studies, international affairs, intercontinental relations, intercontinental studies, foreign studies, foreign relations, national relations, national studies, cross-continental studies, cross-continental relations,afro latin america, black latin america, afro latino, afro latinx, afro latina, black latino, black latinx, black latina, afro latin, afro-americanism, afro-brazilian, afro-cuban, afro-haitian, afro-colombian, afro-dominican, afro-mexican, afro-puertorican, afro-honduran, afro-bolivian, afro-argentinian, afro-chilean, afro-peruvian, afro-nicauraguan, afro-guatemalan,afro-caribbean, diaspora, slave trade,activism, activist, digital activism, advocacy, advocate, involvement, militancy, militant, logrolling, striking, boycotting, championing, champion, effecting change, engagement, supporter, protest, protester, demonstrator, organizing, labor organizing, revolution, revolutionary, community organizing, effecting change, striking, labor strike, labor organizing,sociology, anthropology, psychology, sociological, sociological perspectives, conflict theory, human conflicts, sociological thinking,conflict perspective, topics in sociology, sociology topics, sociology studies, social studies, people and cultures, human relations, human relationships, cultural studies, culture studies ; documentary; doc; sociss; race; racism; Cuba; Dominican Republic; Cuban; Spanish; social issues; ; "Elena";
No clips are available yet.

BlackStar Film Festival - Jury Award, Best Short Documentary
Philadelphia Latino Film Festival - LOLA Award Honorable Mention
New Orleans International Film Festival
Trinidad + Tobago Film Festival
Double Exposure Film Festival

DIRECTOR: Michèle Stephenson

NATIONALITY: United States, Dominican Republic

YEAR: 2018

GENRE: Documentary

LANGUAGE: Spanish; Haitian Creole; Other languages

COLOR / B&W: Color

GRADE LEVEL: High School, College, Adults



Existing customers, please log in to view this film.

New to Pragda? Register to request a quote.