Film documents intra-Caribbean immigration

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A review by Alexandra Simon for Caribbean Life News.

The 10th season of the series “AfroPop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange” premiered this month on Martin Luther King day. This season is being hosted by actor Nicholas L. Ashe and the series is showing two documentary films by Caribbean filmmakers. One is “Between 2 Shores,” by Guadeloupean filmmaker Mariette Monpierre, and the other film is “Fatal Assistance” by Oscar-nominated Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck. They will show on Jan. 29 and Feb. 12 respectively.

Monpierre says as a fan on the show she is thrilled that her project is part of the series.

“I’m really proud to be part of the 10-year anniversary of AfroPop — I’ve been wanting to be part of series for last couple of years and this is year and really a dream come true,” said Monpierre. “I love watching the show because it’s a great way to learn about news about the African Diaspora around the world.”

Her film follows a very popular subject — immigration. In “Between 2 Shores,” she highlights immigration from the Dominican Republic to the French-overseas territory of Guadeloupe. As a child raised by her grandmother after her mother left for France, she says her childhood was heavily affected by immigration.

“Growing up without a mom was my experience as a little girl, and growing up I remember being nostalgic of her presence and missing her,” said Monpierre.

When she was approached to direct the film on the subject, she felt she was the right person to explore based on her own childhood.

“I felt abandoned by my mom and although she had gone to get a better life, the time I spent away from her impacted me for the rest of my life,” she said. “I felt that I could understand what the kids were going through and approach it the right way.”

In the film she follows two Dominican women, Johanna and Cristina, who have lived on the island for over a decade. Both women struggle to maintain their new lives in Guadeloupe and reconnect with their families they left back home. While Dominicans have been entering Guadeloupe for decades, Monpierre says the risk to get there is not as prolific.

She says immigrants pay smugglers to get them en route to Dominica, and from there board a boat to arrive in Guadeloupe, often meeting other challenges.

“Many Dominicans are coming through illegal channels and sometimes they are left ashore or have to swim to shore, and it can be quite dangerous,” said Monpierre. “They can spend days or weeks, and might get attacked.”

Because of Guadeloupe’s status as a French region, the island has the same advantages such as medical and educational benefits appealing to Caribbean immigrants in search of better opportunities, but once immigrants arrive they can meet other challenges.

“Guadeloupe is an attractive place for Dominicans to come — it’s a state to France and all of the social benefits that people get in France, we get here,” said Monpierre. “But they don’t always know what is waiting for them — sometimes it is prostituti­on.”

Monpierre said working on this film was a chance for her to share this story about the journey and sacrifices immigrants make to provide for themselves and their families, and give locals a perspective about the lives of newcomers to the island.

“I made this documentary to raise awareness among the population here to be tolerant, and show that everyone has the right to search for better living,” she said. “I want people to have an empathetic ear and a warm heart because it wasn’t so long ago Caribbean people from the island left to search for opportunities in France and got mistreated there — but so soon do we forget.”

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