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GHOSTS OF CITE SOLEIL

Director: ASGER LETH & MILOS LONCAREVIC

DENMARK-U.S.A. • 2006 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR• DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 88 MIN.


THE FILM-MAKERS CLEARLY RISKED THEIR LIVES TO MAKE THIS REPORT FROM THE SLUMS OF HAITI ONE OF THE MOST STRIKING DOCUMENTARIES OF RECENT TIMES.

That place is the Cite Soleil, the shantytown quarter of Port-au-Prince, and this film has as its subject 2pac and Bily, leaders of the much-feared, heavily-armed gangs known as ‘les chimeres’ or ‘the ghosts’. ‘Power in Haiti is a gun’ they say, and these two would certainly know, since President Aristide has been using their private militias to kill and intimidate protestors demanding the end to his democratically elected rule, which promised so much but has delivered so little for this impoverished nation. With Aristide’s grip on power looking increasingly shaky however, what next for his bully-boys if their protector was no longer around?

Quite how co-directors Asger Leth and Milos Loncarevic gained the confidence of their subjects and still got out alive, we can only surmise, but they’ve captured both a shockingly vivid fresco of a society living in the mouth of madness, and an intimate sketch of two of its typical sons—ruthlessly violent, intoxicated by their own braggadocio, yet at the same time aware that they’re part of a cycle doomed to repeat itself unless change comes from somewhere. While the film’s patronage by Haiti-born musician Wyclef Jean (and his corporate record company) and the often highly aesthetic qualities of the images are sure to stir up debate, its compassion asks us to look through the eyes of almost the last people on earth we might imagine ourselves finding any sympathy for—then shows us their flawed humanity.—Trevor Johnston.

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