Ghosts Of Cité Soleil

Ghosts Of Cité Soleil


Reviewed by: Gary Duncan

The UN describes Haiti as the most dangerous place on earth and this haunting documentary from Danish director Asger Leth, filmed in 2004, shows us why. We see 10-year-olds running around with semi-automatic rifles, heavily armed militiamen fighting in the streets, a woman squatting on a pavement as she gives birth, a hog feeding on a rotting corpse in a filthy gutter.

The film was shot in Cité Soleil, the sprawling slum area of the capital Port-au-Prince, and the ghosts of the title are the Chimères, a rag-tag army of thugs, hired by Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide to attack anti-government protestors as he struggles to cling onto power.

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The story focuses on two Chimères leaders, the brothers 2Pac and Bily. 2Pac has turned against Aristide and dreams of becoming a rapper like his more famous namesake. In a rare moment of introspection, he wonders what kind of life he is going to have. Short, is the obvious answer. 2Pac is only in his mid-twenties, but people like him don't grow old in Cité Soleil. Bily remains loyal to Aristide, happy to carry out his dirty work, but at least he has an ulterior motive. He may be naïve and he may have blood on his hands, but he wants a better life for his young daughter and for the people of Cité Soleil. 2Pac mocks him: what Bily really wants, he scoffs, is to be president.

Leth and co-director Milos Loncarevic shot much of the film on handheld cameras and intersperse their own absorbing story with grainy newsreel footage. This makes it jumpy and a little disjointed in places, but gives the film an authentic immediacy, and Leth still manages to maintain a strong narrative as rebel troops close in on Aristide's presidential palace.

Sometimes, however, it does jar and you're left asking a few questions. 2Pac and Bily befriend Lele, a French relief worker. She appears to be romantically involved with both brothers, but it's never explained who she is and what her motives are. Likewise with the musician Wyclef Jean, who appears on screen in New York as he receives a phone call from 2Pac. Jean is Haitian and he executive produced the film, so his motives are a little easier to understand, but it's awkward and incongruous, and a rare false move.

Reviewed on: 18 Jan 2008
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A look at the lives and origins of the young gangsters who control Haiti's shanty towns.
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Read more Ghosts Of Cité Soleil reviews:

Susanna Krawczyk ***1/2

Director: Asger Leth and Milos Loncarevic

Writer: Asger Leth

Starring: Winson '2Pac' Jean, Wyclef Jean, James 'Bily' Petit Frère, Éleonore 'Lele' Senlis

Year: 2006

Runtime: 88 minutes

Country: Denmark, USA

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