Directed by Juan Mejia Botero & Jake Kheel
73 mins | Documentary Feature | USA/Dominican Republic
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.