“Cacu” Documentary Screening Showcases Conservation Solutions in the Dominican Republic

By Graham Swaney, Public Diplomacy Intern

The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo hosted short environmental film Director/Journalist Marvin Del Cid and Marine Biologist Omar Shamir Reynoso to screen and discuss their documentary, “Cacu: Un Cambio por la Vida” (Cacu: A change for life in English). Del Cid and Reynoso were invited by the Agriculture and Environment Office of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to raise awareness among local staff about local conservation issues. The movie showing was a commemoration of special environment days that were celebrated in the month of June 2019 including World Marine Turtle Day, World Ocean Day, World Environment Day among others.

Two men have a conversation
Marine Biologist Omar Shamir Reynoso (Left) and Director Martin Del Cid (Right) take questions from Embassy staff at the screening.

The documentary revealed the precarious status of sea turtles attempting to nest on Santo Domingo’s Malecon and addressed important questions about the future of conservation in the country. 

“Cacu: Un Cambio por la Vida” explores the tension between the human need to make a living and the value of protecting the environment. The documentary follows Reynoso as he works with five Santo Domingo fishermen to protect turtle nests in Santo Domingo’s Manresa neighbourhood. According to Reynoso, despite coming from an impoverished community, the men took risks to convert from “predators to conservationists”. Reynoso hopes that the success of the program can serve as a role model for conservation efforts globally.

“Cacu: Un Cambio por la Vida” also demonstrates that robust investigative reporting is vital to tackling environmental challenges. Karen Pannocchia, who is an Environmental/ Biodiversity Conservation Specialist with USAID and organizer of the screening, noted Del Cid’s environmental reporting helps identify challenges in the country and provides USAID with local insights and context that can tailor strategic approaches during project planning.

Two men and one woman smiling
USAID Environmental Project Manager and screening organizer Karen Pannocchia (center) poses with Martin Del Cid (left) and Omar Shamir Reynoso (right) for a photo.

While the U.S. Embassy is not directly tied to the documentary, the theme of providing alternative livelihood opportunities is a key component of USAID’s biodiversity protection strategy. Alternative livelihoods help reduce threats to marine life while continuing to provide for Dominicans who rely on the sea to make a living. Additionally, USAID’s biodiversity protection program aims to support sustainable fisheries, bolster local monitoring capacity, and promote effective governance of marine protected areas. 

A group of people pose for a photo in front of several flags
Ambassador Robin Bernstein (centre) drops by to take a photo with Martin Del Cid (left of Bernstein) Omar Shamir Reynoso (Right of Bernstein), and attending Embassy staff.