The nations of Haiti and Dominican Republic co-exist with each other on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Despite sharing the same island, the two countries are polar opposites, with Haiti being one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, while the Dominican Republic is one of the strongest and most stable economies in the region. Haitians rely on charcoal as a primary source of cooking fuel and, having depleted their own natural resources, Haitians illegally cut down trees of the Dominican Republic’s protected forests to meet their charcoal demand. When Dominican Park Ranger Eligio Eloy Vargas, aka Melaneo, is found brutally murdered in the Sierra de Bahoruco National Park, it escalates the long existing tensions between the Haitians and Dominicans.
Death by a Thousand Cuts is a film that examines the tensions between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which is escalated by the Haitians illegal production of charcoal and the murder of the Dominican Park Ranger Melaneo. One of those most affected by Melaneo’s death is his Haitian wife Calina, who gets caught up in the anti-Haiti response to the murder, since the primary suspect is a Haitian national named Pablo Tipal.
If anything, Death by a Thousand Cuts provides a history of the tensions between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which date back to the 19th century. Despite starting off being about the Haitian’s illegal production of charcoal, the film becomes more about the reignition of these tensions as a response to Melaneo’s murder. However, there is also evidence to suggest that Haitians might not be the only ones responsible for the illegal deforestation in the Dominican Republic.