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'Parsley' will premiere Miami International Film Festival this weekend. Photo: "Parsley" - Instagram.
'Parsley' will premiere Miami International Film Festival this weekend. Photo: 'Parsley'— Instagram.

The Haitian genocide on the big screen

'Parsley' ('Perejil') depicts the genocide ordered by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo in 1937, and will premiere this weekend at the Miami Film Festival.

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Around 30,000 Haitians who worked in rural areas in conditions equivalent to modern slavery were murdered on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 1937. This Haitian genocide, ordered by the former Dominican dictator Rafael L. Trujillo, is known as The Parsley Massacre.

The massacre owes its name to the fact that the soldiers led by Trujillo carried a branch of parsley, and asked all those who — apparently — were Haitians to say the word 'parsley' as a key for their salvation and sparing their lives. However, many of the Haitians had Creole as their mother tongue, so the pronunciation of the word 'parsley' led them to death.

After being executed, the victims were thrown into the Massacre River, which owes its name to all the tragic episodes it has witnessed since colonization.

This historic episode, tinged with blood and suffering, is the focus of the film Parsley (Perejil), directed by José María Cabral. The movie tells the story of the Dominican Frank and the Haitian Marie, who is nine months pregnant. The film recounts the moments of pain as the family is decimated by Trujillo's violence, and the sacrifice and strength of love to survive amid the Dominican military attacks.

“It is a difficult film to tell but very necessary. Revisiting the past is urgent to understand the present,” said the Dominican director in a post on Instagram.

“Lately I have been very interested in historical films, revisiting the past. Reading about the dictatorship of Trujillo, this fact impacted me and I understood how important it was to take it to the cinema to show how violent and bloodthirsty Trujillo was with his political ideas. Fortunately, we no longer live in the dictatorship of 1937 and there is a climate of freedom which did not exist before, but there is still room for improvement in our relations,” said Cabral about the meaning of his eighth feature film in an interview with Variety magazine. “As filmmakers our combat weapon is the camera and with it we can capture new perspectives.”

A large number of the scenes in Parsley were shot at Pinewood studios in the Dominican Republic. The entire Dominican community of Dajabón, located in the northwest of the country near Haiti border, was recreated on set, according to the director.

The movie will premiere this weekend at both the Miami Film Festival and the Santa Barbara Film Festival. It will premiere in Dominican theaters soon. 

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