In the documentary Citizens of Nowhere by Nicolas-Alexandre Tremblay and Régis Coussot, the notion of home is embroiled in issues of race, politics and economy. The film deals with the consequences of a law that rendered stateless close to 250,000 residents of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic.
Unlike the other films, Citizens of Nowhere isn’t structured around a personal journey, but instead takes a more journalistic approach, following multiple characters on different sides of the debate. Yet here again, landscape is an important signifier as views of mountains, palm trees, beaches and the ocean establish a seemingly peaceful tropical paradise. And here again, appearances hide the profound invisible scars that plague the island that was separated into two distinct countries with interconnected tumultuous destinies.
The tension and contrast are seen in the images and testimonies of Haitian immigrants and their descendants who live in batey – small, isolated and impoverished communities - and wealthy ultra-nationalist Dominicans who blame them for much of their country’s social and economic ills. Tremblay and Coussot follow the Haitian immigrants into their personal lives gathering intimate portraits of their daily routines while interviewing their critics in a more formal manner. The difficult stories of simple survival recounted by the Haitians are contrasted with the virulent contempt segments of the Dominican elite hold towards them. Community workers, journalists and other Dominicans with more balanced views contextualize the presence of the Haitians and support their fight for residency rights.
Archival images of Dominicans beating the Haitians and burning down their homes in the aftermath of the legislation are brutal and difficult to watch. However, the most telling moment of the film is a quiet moment when the camera lingers uncomfortably on the silent faces of the leaders of the ultra-nationalist movement, seething with anger towards their chosen scapegoats.
Citizens of Nowhere shines a light on what it is to be stateless: the limbo that emerges when you lose your home, when you are no longer welcomed here, but have no there to go.
We would like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.
We also acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.
... appearances hide the profound invisible scars that plague the island that was separated into two distinct countries with interconnected tumultuous destinies.