Two New Documentaries Give Caribbean Stories the Depths They Deserve

The New York Times spotlighted two recent PBS POV documentaries that are available for a limited time to view online and may help develop your students’ perceptions of contemporary events in the Caribbean. 

Landfall (2020) is an award-winning documentary from director-producer Cecilia Aldarondo, who is also known for her 2016 film Memories of a Penitent Heart. Landfall focuses on the time period between 2017’s deadly Hurricane Maria and the 2019 ousting of Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo Rosselló, through to the protests that led to his resignation. To accompany this film, POV has a list of readings for a variety of ages that can help further contextualize the events and conversations in this film. Find that list here. Additionally, WNYC and Futuro Studios collaborated to produce a seven-episode series of podcasts called La Brega to share the stories of Puerto Ricans who have lived through la brega, the struggle or the grapple. Episodes are available in Spanish and English.

Stateless (2021) is another award-winning documentary, this one from Haitian filmmaker and former human rights attorney Michèle Stephenson. This film looks at the current state of affairs in the Dominican Republic in its relation to the 2013 legal ruling that stripped over 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent of citizenship (retroactive to 1929), leaving them dispossessed from their own home. Following an activist of Haitian descent trying to better the lives of her community, her cousin who has been stripped of citizenship, and a Dominican ultranationalist, Stephenson shows a wide range of realities experienced in the Dominican Republic. POV has two teaching resources for this film. They have a reading list, found here, and a discussion guide to shape a conversation after viewing, found here.

Many thanks to the CLACS faculty members that helped with resources for this and last resource’s offerings.