Pure Dominican explores the complicated and controversial subject of race and identity in the Dominican Republic.
The project began as a personal exploration of my own origins, as an attempt to understand, if not answer, that eternally nagging, part-genetic and part-existential question: Who am I?
For Dominicans living on the island and abroad our heritage is a tricky, often controversial subject that itself often raises more questions than answers. The film takes a particular interest in Dominicans who in one way or another deny, ignore, or otherwise bypass issues of ancestry and race. There is an ongoing debate about whether or not the native Tainos were annihilated by the Spanish colonialists. We Dominicans romanticize the Taino heritage, but how much of them do we really have in our blood? Do our cherished self-ideals square with our actual genes, with historic fact? Meanwhile, how much our African heritage do we understand, or even acknowledge?
I took an impartial approach, with a goal of simply capturing what people have to say of their own origins. I discovered that very few can (or want to) accurately trace their ancestry. Their stories highlight the vagueness (sometimes intentional, sometimes deliberate) with which we Dominicans assess our identity. While asking questions, I thought a lot about the ways questions of history can uncomfortably press against our notions of identity and complicate how we understand and acknowledge our both our origins and ourselves.