The Sugar Babies is an award-winning feature-length documentary that vividly explores the lives of descendants of African slaves delivered to the island of Hispaniola to help produce sugar. These very same people continue to be trafficked to work in sugar production under circumstances the film depicts as modern day slavery.
Narrated by Edwidge Danticat, the film examines the moral price of sugar – present and past—from the perspective of conditions surrounding the children of sugar cane cutters of Haitian ancestry in the Dominican Republic and the continuing denial of their basic human rights. The film reveals the complicity between the government of the Dominican Republic and the sugar industry in exploiting Haitian immigrants.
The Sugar Babies was shot on location in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, England and the United States. The 99-minute film is originally in Spanish, French and Creole and sub-titled in English, and produced by The Hope, Courage and Justice Project of New Orleans, the Human Rights Foundation of New York, and the former Siren Studios of Miami.
The film is written, shot, produced and directed by Amy Serrano. Its executive producer is Claudia Chiesi, Producer is Thor Halvorssen, Constance Haqq is Co-Producer and Salvador Longoria and Tico Pujals are Associate Producers. The film was edited by Jason Ocasio and scored by Bill Cruz.
Haitian immigrants have traditionally labored in the sugarcane fields, known as bateys and controlled by individuals such as the Palm Beach-based sugar barons Alfonso and Pepe Fanjul and the wealthy Dominican Vicini family, owners of the Grupo Vicini collection of companies which includes CAEI (3 major sugar mills), Banco del Progreso (one of the largest banks in the Dominican Republic), METALDOM (the largest metallurgic in the Caribbean) and investments in over 20 more companies. Allegations of modern-day slavery have met with a swift response from the sugar barons and ultra-nationalist Dominicans.
The Miami screening of the film, which included many members of the hispanic media of South Florida and from the Dominican Republic, was the subject of a cease and desist order one hour before the time of screening, as well as a bribery scandal when several radio producers came forward and denounced that Dominican diplomats had offered them bribes (envelopes filled with cash amounts ranging from $400-$2,000) to disrupt the screening and give the film a bad review.  The Paris screening of the film was also the subject of a sabotage attempt.
The film made "Official Selection" at Unifem's Through Women's Eyes Film Festival, the New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival, and the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival. The film also made "Official Selection" at both the Miami International Film Festival and the Women's International Film Festival but was ostensibly withdrawn from both South Florida festivals due to pressure from the sugar industry.
The Sugar Babies won the Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the Delray Beach Film Festival, continues to be screened in film festivals and educational venues, and is on tour with Amnesty International in France.
- IPS Inter Press Service