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July 28, 2016

Death by a Thousand Cuts Screened in Washington, DC: “The ferocious and growing competition for natural resources is fertile ground for social conflict”

The Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival (DREFF), in collaboration with the DC Environmental Film Festival (DCEFF) and the Interamerican Development Bank (IBD), yesterday celebrated the screening of the film Death by a Thousand Cuts at the E Street Cinema in Washington, DC. Before a full house that required the opening of two screening rooms, the movie’s codirectors Juan Mejía Botero and Jake Kheel and producer Ben Selkow spoke with the public about the film and expressed their hope that it would serve to call attention to the implicated parties and generate dialogue between Haiti and the Dominican Republic as well as transnational solutions.

“Washington, DC, as capital of the United States, is the ideal place to present Death by a Thousand Cuts before an influential and active audience,” they explained. “The presentation of the documentary in this city,” they continued, “gives us the chance to carry on the dialogue and conversations we’ve previously had with congressmen and US senators who’ve shown interest in this important problem, while also sharing the discoveries of our investigation into charcoal trafficking and its consequences.”

The documentary is, in essence, “a story with a moral demonstrating that the ferocious and growing competition for natural resources, along with increasingly notable economic inequality, is fertile ground for social conflict,” said the film’s directors, against a backdrop of impressive photography from Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The new executive director of the DCEFF, Maryanne Culpepper, said during her opening comments that the Festival – this year celebrating its 25th anniversary – presented this impactful documentary “as part of our commitment to presenting the most relevant films within the framework of the environment.”

DREFF’s director of programming María Victoria Abreu highlighted, for her part, that DREFF’s commitment to presenting this film in both Washington, DC, and the Dominican Republic between September 13 and 18 during the Festival is “to generate interest and concern among the public and motivate dialogue, action, and change at the different levels of society.”

Luis Simón, an analyst at the Office of External Relations of the Interamerican Development Bank (IBD), mentioned this special presentation and highlighted that “it’s important to support events like this that stimulate constructive discussions on complex issues in Latin America.”

“The solutions are varied and can be incorporated at different levels, but they should at minimum include a binational focus to reduce the demand for charcoal, greater protection for Dominican protected areas, livelihood alternatives for charcoal producers, and coherent forest management policies,” Kheel stressed.

About the Movie
At a time when tensions between the Dominican Republic and Haiti are ever more fraught, the brutal murder of a forest ranger becomes a metaphor for a broader reality on illicit charcoal exploitation and mass deforestation. With masterful cinematography, the documentary investigates the circumstances of the ranger’s death and the systematic destruction of Dominican forests.

This documentary is part of the program for DREFF 2016, to be held this September 13-18 in the Dominican Republic. The Washington, DC, showing is part of the Environmental Film Screenings program that DREFF runs year-round in the United States, on this occasion with the collaboration of the DCEFF, our partner of several years.

Since its creation in 2011, the Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival offers Dominicans a platform for knowledge and debate on environmental and sustainable development issues as well as the challenges they involve and best practices to address them. It also celebrates the exclusive beauty and wealth of the Dominican Republic’s natural endowment. With a varied selection of documentaries and numerous debate panels, workshops, seminars, and community activities, DREFF promotes dialogue and exchange of knowledge and experiences, with the aim of motivating Dominicans to take action and contribute to appreciating, conserving, and utilizing their natural resources sustainably.

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