The Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival (DREFF) in partnership with the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital (DCEFF) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) will host the DC premiere of Death by a Thousand Cuts at the IDB Enrique V. Iglesias Auditorium, July 27 at 6 pm. The special screening will be followed by a discussion with the co-director and producer Jake Kheel, co-director Juan Mejía Botero, and producer Ben Selkow. This initiative is part of the Year Round Environmental Film Screenings Program that DREFF develops in the United States throughout the year, on this occasion with the collaboration of DCEFF, our long term partner.
Directed by Juan Mejía Botero and Jake Kheel, the documentary will be part of DREFF 2016 Program, taking place in the Dominican Republic from September 13 to 18. Beautifully filmed in the Dominican Republic, with music composed by multiple Grammy nominated and Grammy winning guitarist for They Might Be Giants Daniel Miller, Death by a Thousand Cuts it’s a captivating film that shows the link between environmental destruction and social catastrophe.
As tensions increase between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the brutal murder of a park ranger becomes the metaphor for a larger story about illicit charcoal exploitation and mass deforestation. With stunning cinematography, the film investigates the circumstances of the ranger’s death and the systematic eradication of the Dominican forests. As in so many global struggles for natural resources, the fight for survival leads to scapegoating, xenophobia and clashes between communities. These clashes come to reflect the struggle for resources at a national and global scale, which when taken to extreme scenarios can lead to the persistent cycle of ethnic civil conflict and international violence, explain the producers of the film.
“The film, at its core, is a cautionary tale of how the increasingly fierce competition for natural resources combined with swelling wealth inequality can create fertile ground for civil strife,” as explained by the directors Juan Mejia Botero and Jake Kheel. “Even when initially represented as ethnic conflicts, if we step back and examine some of the world’s most recent international tragedies, we’ll often find this combination of factors at their center. The rising tensions between Haiti and the Dominican Republic are one example.”
About the Directors
Jake Kheel is a leader in the field of sustainable development. For over ten years he has confronted diverse 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 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 to conceive of Death by a Thousand Cuts. Jake has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Management from Cornell University and Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Latin American literature from Wesleyan University.
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 on 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 and a postproduction grant from the Tribeca Film Institute.
About Ben Selkow
Ben Selkow is an award-winning, non-fiction television and film director/producer whose work has been showcased on HBO, CNN, PBS, SundanceTV, Discovery, Science, Participant Media, Univision, Esquire Network, and at film festivals globally. His work pushes the cinematographic medium while crafting evocative human stories that elevate topics to broader platforms of dialog. Ben has focused on global social justice issues such as mental health disorders, women’s maternal health, the connection between environmental destruction and mass conflict. He has produced and directed long-form documentaries, docu-series, hosted international series and branded content all over the world.
Since its creation in 2011, the Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival has been providing Dominicans with a platform of knowledge and debate on the environment and sustainable development, along with its challenges and best practices, while celebrating the unique beauty and wealth that is the Dominican Republic’s natural heritage. With a diverse selection of films and numerous panels, workshops, seminars, and community activities, the DREFF promotes dialogue and the exchange of knowledge and experience, inspiring Dominicans to adopt actions that contribute to the appreciation, conservation, and sustainable use of their environmental resources.