FROM MIAMI-BASED EXECUTIVE PRODUCER UNIVISION COMMUNICATION
With exquisite cinematography, DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS uses the character-driven murder investigation on the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic to unpack the broader exigent issues of deforestation, the illegal wood charcoal trade and rising xenophobic tensions between the two countries.
WINNER: Grand Jury Prize – Seattle International Film Festival 2016
WINNER: Audience Award – DOC NYC 2016
MUST-SEE TRAILER – DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS
Saturday, March 11 at 4:00 PM
MDC’S Tower Theater (Theater 1)
Followed by Q&A with the filmmakers!
In DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS, Eligio Eloy Vargas, alias Melaneo, a Dominican Park Ranger in the Sierra de Bahoruco National Park was found brutally murdered by machete. At the time, he was believed to have been on patrol investigating an illegal charcoal production site often run by Haitians coming across the border into protected Dominican forests. This murder becomes the metaphor for the larger story of increasing tension between Haiti and the Dominican Republic over illicit charcoal exploitation and mass deforestation: the alleged murder weapon itself being the same tool used to chop down Dominican trees by the thousands.
With stunning cinematography, DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS is a feature-length documentary film that is a double-murder investigation, seeking to learn about the circumstances of Melaneo’s death and the systematic eradication of the Dominican forests. The film interweaves the many sides of the story of Melaneo’s murder told through: his Haitian wife Calina, brother Chichi, local reporter Luis Medrano and a Haitian Nené working as a Dominican park ranger, all representing different perspectives on a complex socio-political issue. In parallel, the film explores the larger backdrop of the rapidly changing reality on the Dominican and Haitian border due to the illegal charcoal trafficking trade. Deforestation cuts deeply across the economic, social and security fabric of both countries and has far-reaching consequences that are largely unrecognized in either nation.
For over five years, we witnessed the remaining forests on the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti slowly disappear. The journey to discover why has been one full of intrigue and complexity. At times frustrating and at other times exhilarating, the story grew as we pursued leads and followed threads in our story.
Journeying by truck, motorcycle, motorboat, makeshift sailboat, mule, and helicopter, we followed the illegal charcoal trail, we sought to understand what drives this lucrative yet destructive industry. The gruesome murder of a Dominican park ranger at the hands of a Haitian charcoal producer added more fuel and urgency to our quest to tell the story of a border already burning with tension.
DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS is at its core a cautionary tale of how the increasingly fierce competition for natural resources meets swelling wealth inequality to create fertile ground for civil strife. Even when conflict is initially represented as ethnic, when we step back and examine the world’s most recent international tragedies, we often find this combination of factors at the center. The rising tension between Haiti and the Dominican Republic are but one important example.
DIRECTORS’ COMMENTS ON SPECIAL MIAMI CONNECTIONS TO THIS STORY
We are incredibly excited to be screening at the Miami International Film Festival this year. It represents an opportunity to share our film with audiences from a number of Caribbean nations where many of the concrete issues that play out in the film hit closest to home. Specifically, we feel privileged to have the opportunity to engage with the great Haitian diaspora (over 200,000) and the growing Dominican diaspora (close to 75,000) in Miami, and we hope to bring them to the theater and encourage discussion on the issues the film brings forth.
During the making of this film we were constantly reminded of the tensions and differences between both countries, but we were also struck by the deep similarities they share. Borders often epitomize that dichotomy between tension and synergy. We believe that the Miami International Film Festival is the perfect venue to engage in powerful and constructive dialogue about the political, cultural and environmental relationship between these two countries who share one island.
Juan Mejia Botero
is an award-winning film director with over 15 years of experience in feature and short documentaries. His work has focused primarily o
n human rights abuses and struggles for social justice around the world. He has worked extensively in Latin America and the Caribbean where he has directed a number of films around matters of forced displacement, ethnic autonomy, state violence, and the competition for natural resources, which have played widely in the festival circuit and also television. Juan’s directorial debut, Uprooted, won a number of awards and aired nationally on PBS. His feature documentary The Battle for Land, was a winner of a production grant from the Colombian Ministry of Culture Cinema Fund, a postproduction grant from the Tribeca Film Institute, and an Honesty Oscar by the Red Foundation.
Jake Kheel is a leader in the field of sustainable development. For over ten years he has diverse confronted social and environmental challenges in the Dominican Republic as Vice President of Sustainability of Grupo Puntacana and Vice President of the Grupo Puntacana Foundation, successfully implementing sustainability programs that have garnered the company many global sustainability awards. In 2001, as a graduate student conducting his Master’s thesis, Jake saw firsthand the relentless deforestation in the Sierra de Bahoruco and the potential for conflict between neighboring Haiti and the Dominican Republic over this unique national park. This began a nearly two-decade interest in the Sierra de Bahoruco and its steady decline that eventually led him conceive of DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS.
DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS / MUERTE POR MIL CORTES
Documentary | 2016
Thousand Cuts, LLC
Co-Directors: Juan Mejia Botero & Jake Kheel
Producers: Ben Selkow & Jake Kheel
Executive Producers: Jeff Skoll, Belisa Balaban, Christy Spitzer Thornton
Executive Producers: Isaac Lee, Juan Rendon, Eric Douat
Editor: Adriana Pacheco
Cinematographer: Juan Carlos Castañeda
Co-Producers: Nadia Pollard & Juancho Yepes
Consulting Editor: Mark Becker
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