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Double Exposure Film Festival: Elena

Elena is a 20-something social worker living in the Dominican Republic. She’s the daughter of a Haitian sugar cane worker and is struggling to get her government issued ID so she can continue her work. An ID would allow her to vote, give her more rights as a citizen and open up educational and career opportunities for her. But there is a deep-seated animosity that Dominicans feel towards Haitian immigrants. It’s one that is deeply entrenched into the history of the Hispaniola and is not changing anytime soon.

Directed by Michèle Stephenson, Elena is a moving short documentary about the strife between Haitians and Dominicans as told the story of one woman. I’m half Dominican and have studied the history of my mother’s homeland over the years. Anyone who has read Edwidge Danticat’s The Farming of Bones or knows anything about Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo’s  government imposed massacre of Haitian immigrants will know that this has been a longstanding problem on the island. For others, Elena will serve as a gentle and worthwhile introduction to this ongoing conflict. Stephenson chose a great subject for this poignant documentary. I was thoroughly invested in Elena’s story and by the end felt I like I made a new friend.

Elena was part of the 2021 Double Exposure Film Festival.

SXSW: Ludi

Ludi (Shein Mompremier) is utterly exhausted. She works countless hours as a nurse, scraping away all the money she can to send back to her family in Haiti. Ludi lives in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami and while her community reminds her of home, her constant struggle reminds her that pursuing the American dream is a relentless uphill climb. When a coworker gives her insight on a new opportunity to make some easy cash, she sets out to take the night shift at the home of George (Alan Myles Heyman), an elderly man too proud to receive help. With George, Ludi faces her greatest challenge yet.

Directed by Haitian-American filmmaker Edson Jean and co-written by Joshua Jean-Baptiste, Ludi is a poignant drama that reveals the pain and vulnerability that comes with the immigrant experience. Shein Mompremier’s moving portrayal of Ludi exemplifies what it means to be a hard-working immigrant woman in America. The film lingers on the scenes between Ludi and George, who have an all out battle, and Heyman’s authentic performance gives viewers insight on the plight of the elderly.

Ludi premiered at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival.

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