‘My Father’s Land,’ a documentary highlighting the issues of migration and discrimination against Haitians and people of Haitian descent in the Bahamas last night won the Amnesty International Human Rights Prize at the trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff). Miquel Galofré and Tyler Johnston’s documentary was handed the award at a ceremony in Port of Spain on 27 September.
“’My Father’s Land’ was awarded the prize as the film with the strongest analysis of human rights issues in the Caribbean, in particular around migration and discrimination, which resonate well beyond the context of the Bahamas”, said Trinidadian lawyer Jason Nathu for the jury, after awarding the trophy to the winner.
The prize was judged by three jurors: Blanca Granados, Head of Industry at the Cartagena International Film Festival, Jason Nathu, attorney and tutor at the Human Rights Clinic of Trinidad’s Hugh Wooding Law School, and Chiara Sangiorgio of Amnesty International.
Other contenders for this year’s prize were ‘Casa Blanca’ by Aleksandra Maciuszek, a moving portrayal of the relationship between an elderly woman and her disabled son in Cuba; ‘Citizens of Nowhere’ by Regis Coussot and Nicholas Alexandre Tremblay which explored how Dominicans of Haitian descent have been denied nationality and suffered discrimination in the Dominican Republic; and ‘The Last Colony’ by Juan Agustin Márquez, analyzing the sovereignty issue of Puerto Rico and its political status in the context of ongoing debates on independence.
The Amnesty International Human Rights Prize was established in 2014 and is awarded annually to the maker of the Caribbean film screened at ttff which is judged to have most compellingly highlighted a human rights issue. The prize was established with a view to promoting a human rights culture in Trinidad and Tobago and in the wider Caribbean region through the enhanced production, screening and distribution of films and documentaries.
“’My Father’s Land’ highlights the impact of recent migration reforms in the Bahamas on Haitian migrants and Bahamians of Haitian descent living in two communities in Abaco. Accompanied by an excellent use of music, the documentary gives voice to feelings of exclusion and stories of uprooted future threatening members of the Haitian community in the country,” said Blanca Granados.
The winning documentary follows Papa Jah, a Haitian gardener who has lived in the Bahamas for forty years. He sets off on a travel back to his village in Haiti to visit his elderly and sick father. His journey takes place against the backdrop of the plight of members of the Haitian community, who either left their beloved homeland in search for a better future or were born in the Bahamas — but all of whom are now required to apply for citizenship or face deportation.
“The discrimination portrayed in this documentary is a truly Caribbean human rights issue, not only towards Haitian migrants or people of Haitian descent but also to other migrant communities and minority groups in general This film is a great tool for activists who have been campaigning against arbitrary deportations, deprivation of nationality and more broadly on discrimination issues. We hope that many more people will stand up against xenophobia and discrimination in the region” said Chiara Sangiorgio from Amnesty International.
Since September 2014 the government of the Bahamas has announced a series of new policies and reforms to the immigration system, including new requirements for migrants residing in the country such as holding a residence permit for children as a prerequisite for their enrollment in schools. Furthermore, in September 2014, the government announced that within two months everyone living in the Bahamas would be requested to hold a passport of their nationality. The short timeframe and the lack of awareness raising within the affected communities resulted in arrests and deportation of hundreds of people, most of whom were Haitian nationals or Bahamians of Haitian descent.