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DOCUMENTARY - Taking an incredible risk Asger Leth documents the
existence of the secret army, known as 'the chimeres', in the Haitian
capital sub-slum, Cite Soleil - according to the UN the most dangerous
place on earth.
Former President Aristide has denied the existence of this government funded secret army, that spread terror in the ghettos of Port-au-Prince.
Director Asger Leth succeeds absolutely in showing the total neglect by former president Aristide and also the complete misunderstanding of the situation by the American armed forces (or political leaders). And - mind you - Asger Leth succeeds without being political or biased by anyone or anything. This is journalistic documentary when it's best. At the same time some of the emotional-tools of film-making integrates smoothly within the faint storyline.
That's the strength - and in some way also the small flaw. The storyline is simply too wage to manifest totally because the violence and roughness is so massive - that's why the 9 of 10 stars.
It's a minor detail in the overall picture. A perception that 'Ghosts of Cite Soleil' is both a masterpiece and a necessity. It's a mindblowing insight in a horrifying world only 1 1/2 hours flight from Miami(US).
And finally it's a sensitive emotional portrait of a group of peace-seeking youngsters with dreams, loves, losses and unbearable grief. No parents (they're shot dead), a few remaining friends (about to be shot dead) no schools, no jobs, no money, no future... All they have is this almost irrational faint hope, some cheap guns and a overwhelming struggle to survive.
A tough but emotional and very well made documentary by Asger.
A candle in chaos! Thanks mate :-)
I saw this tonight (8/17/07)at Facets in Chicago and was handed
propaganda by American people who are apparently jumping on another
cause that blames America for everything. This film did not appear to
have an agenda at all to me. I actually was wishing it had a little
more of one because I kept getting confused about who was good and who
was bad. There is a reason I was confused, because they didn't portray
anyone as completely good or bad. The place seems a mess.
The people handing me the papers definitely had an agenda just like some of the reviewers on here. In fact one of the papers I got has word for word the same thing as one of the reviewers. People yell out racist and compare the director to Leni Riffenstahl and we are supposed to think it's the film is biased??? The propaganda against the film is what seems to be blatantly biased. It is unquestionably pro Aristide.
I don't understand how anyone can call this film racist. That seems to be a typical ploy to get people emotional and disregard any facts. I didn't see any of the Hatian people as evil thugs, I saw them as victims and survivors used and manipulated by corrupt governments.
This film maker did not appear to be for deposing Aristide at all. I got the impression that both leaders were corrupt which is most likely the case. It definitely looked like the new government had the brothers killed unjustly. The brothers were not shown as completely good or bad either. We see their deplorable living conditions and their bones prominent on their scrawny bodies as they showered and know that they are desperate.
I think this film maker did an excellent job because no one came out blameless. Some reviewers on here want you to believe that Aristide was blameless and that the gangsters were made up, despite actual footage of gangsters attacking demonstrators. Even if Aristide didn't order it, he should have at least gone after the gangs.
It is simple--this is a story of of gang warfare. There is no truth--there is no right--there is no way out. It will only end when one side is wiped out. I commend the makers of this film on their documentation of the voices of all involved and this film should be viewed by everyone who is concerned about violence that springs up in the midst of poverty. It is not without reason--these people have a need for respect, they have family, they want the same things that every human wants/desires--if you don't care ... what do you expect. This is not only a film about Haiti, but about any environment in the world that faces the extremes that these people face...
Despite a few rather dour write up's on this site, I admired 'Ghosts Of Citi Soleil'. If anybody followed the news in Haiti a few years ago, it's dictator, Aristade was deposed, leaving the country in a state of chaos. This "cinema verite" documentary concerns two brothers on opposite sides of the whole ugly scene (one, pro Aristade,the other, con). Both brothers are involved in vicious street gangs, although there is still a sense of brotherly love between the two, despite the odds. The film documents a warts & all approach to the whole gang problem that makes daily life a misery in the ghetto where it all takes place (it's very gritty, complete with a firecracker string of f-bombs, gun violence & general ugliness). The great Wyclef Jean not only composed the incidental score to the film, but also has some on screen time, as well (for those who have been living in a cave for the last ten or more years now, Jean is a musician,producer,arranger, and former member of the Fugees). If I have any quirks about this film, it's sometime hard to pin a bead on the film's camera work (the hand held camera work does tend at times to shake around a little too much). Apart from that,for anybody who has an iron clad will (and doesn't get too offended by rough language), Ghosts Of Citi Soleil is a grim, but interesting window into another culture,generally ignored by America.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When is the last time you saw a documentary with a soft-core love
scene? The Ghosts of Cite Soleil makes this, with French "relief
worker" Lele working in an AIDS prevention program. Meanwhile, at the
end of the feature, we find out that Bily's wife is HIV positive.
The director is Danish, not German, but The Ghosts of Cite Soleil makes heroes of the made- in-Washington leaders of Haiti's 2004 coup in a manner reminiscent of Leni Riefenstahl's adoration for Adolf Hitler in her famous film from the 1930's, Triumph of the Will. It builds a web of lies - lies of omission and lies of commission - into the "Big Lie" - a stylized, decontextualized, post-modern, sexy/violent piece of propaganda disguised as a documentary, full of guns but signifying nothing.
The Ghosts of Cite Soleil claims to reveal the intimate personal lives of two gangsters who are brothers, Bily and 2Pac, in the deprived Cite Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. When introducing them to several foreign journalists, filmmaker Kevin Pina (Harvest of Hope, Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits) made the following comment, "Billy and I had a falling out over the question of his accepting money from foreign journalists to hype this question of Aristide and gangsters. The more they paid the more outlandish became his claims . . ."
The director, Asger Leth, would have us believe the majority of people of Cite Soleil don't support President Aristide, and that those who do are forced to do so by armed gangsters. He ignores the fact that massive pro-Aristide demonstrations have taken place in Cite Soliel repeatedly since the coup. In one scene, a Cite Soleil crowd shouts, "Five full years, Five full years." Leth translates, but does not explain the significance - the people want Aristide back to finish his full five-year term.
The film doesn't tell us that "Opposition leaders" Andy Apaid and Charles Henry Baker are also sweatshop owners who hate Aristide because he wanted to raise the minimum wage and make them pay taxes, which the rich don't do in Haiti.
We're told President Aristide left voluntarily - no mention of his kidnapping by the U.S. military and his ongoing banishment from the continent. We see jubilant crowds of Aristide opponents waving as the coup makers drive into town, giving the impression most Haitians supported the coup. We don't see the U.S./French/Canadian soldiers guarding the route and making the entrance possible. We don't learn that Port-au-Prince was totally defended the day of Aristide's kidnapping, and the coup leaders would never have been able to take it over militarily. Instead Uncle Sam came to the rescue.
We're not told that Louis Jodel Chamblain worked with the Duvalier dictatorship's brutal militia, the Tonton Macoutes, in the 1980s; that following a military coup against Aristide in 1991, he was the "operations guy" for the FRAPH paramilitary death squad, accused of murdering uncounted numbers of Aristide supporters and introducing gang rape into Haiti as a military weapon.
We're not told that Guy Phillipe is a former Haitian police chief who was trained by US Special Forces in Ecuador in the early 1990s, or that the U.S. embassy admitted that Phillipe was involved in the transhipment of narcotics, one of the key sources of funds for paramilitary attacks on the poor in Haiti. He says the man he most admires is former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Leth portrays both of these men as credible spokespersons, not gangsters.
Where did the weapons of the coup-makers come from? Who organized and trained them? Who spent tens of millions of dollars to create an "opposition movement" in Haiti? The United States is the real ghost in this film - it simply does not exist, except for its official version of events, scripted by George W. Bush, which The Ghosts of Cite Soleil follows scrupulously.
The Ghosts of Cite Soleil plays like a manipulative music video, featuring music by Haitian rapper Wyclef Jean, also the executive producer, who supported the coup and pushed the State Department line among the conscious hip-hop community and progressive celebrities in Hollywood. This contrasts to the principled stand of Danny Glover, Ruby Dee and her late, great husband Ossie Davis. You can almost hear the violins behind Chamblain, as he talks about his return to Haiti, but the music becomes dissonant and menacing behind Aristide or behind 2Pac and Bily, who speak English no less, but we never learn why. Like we never learn who, or why about anything in this movie, a piece of soft core propaganda, cleverly, consciously, and seductively made. It's being distributed by Sony, and may someday show at a theatre near you. People get ready, the Ghosts are coming.
by Charlie Hinton
The little glimpses shown by the news broadcasts, can't give us much more than a taste of what is taking place in the world.... Ghosts of cite' soleil is allowing us to participate in a story going way beyond the usual glimpse, feel it when it is the most rotten, and is making us understand the background of certain actions taking place - politically, socially and mentally. It is showing us, what can't be read in any books, and is allowing us to feel what can usually be felt when actually being present, experiencing in real life! For those who wants entertainment and nothing but that, don't even bother! But for anymore with an interest in different aspects of life, with an interrest in history, in reality - don't miss it for the world -This is a great documentary! Sascha, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Asger Leth offers a rare glimpse into the world of Haiti's largest slum
through through his remarkable recorded encounters with the Chimeres
('ghosts'), a loose organisation of gangs supporting President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Among the Ghosts of Cite Soleil are two
brothers, Bily and 2Pac, whose changing perspectives and fortunes are
documented alongside Aristide's downfall in the face of an armed
rebellion. Bily, 2Pac and their fellow gang-members patrol the streets
of Cite Soleil to a soundtrack of rap music, fraternising one moment
and racketeering the next; there are guns everywhere and the peace is
never more than tenuous. Leth's own camera-work, itself shorn of
commentary, is interspersed with newsreel footage of Aristide's
worsening fortunes to provide a lucid backdrop to the unfolding drama
on the street.
Leth attained remarkable access when recording this film; we see 2Pac showering naked on two occasions and are witness to his startling and intimate affair with Lele, a French aid worker. Yet Leth does not reveal how this access is attained he chooses not to show the seams of his documentary style and this leaves many important questions unanswered. Due to editing we do not hear Leth's voice, whether he is speaking to one of the Chimeres or to an expert on Haitian affairs. The lack of a 'presenter' which contrasts with TV documentary series such as Unreported World means that the subjects speak directly to us and not through a translator, but at the same time we are left with little clue of the questions that are being put across by the film-maker.
In the absence of a presenter or commentator the camera takes on a greater role in interviewing people. In the presence of the camera, 2Pac and Bily are often full of bluster about their status in Cite Soleil. Such scenes are revealing about the self-image and social interaction in Cite Soleil but they draw the film away from the more detached style of observation employed by many documentaries. This is a film closely centred on Bily and 2Pac and those viewers expecting a lucid account of life in a Haitian slum will be disappointed. Ghosts of Cite Soleil nevertheless succeeds as a unique and compelling portrait of gang life in Haiti.
This is the realest piece of film I have ever watched. There's no glamour or icing over. You should watch this is you are fed up with the happy-ever-after, superhero and any other artificial stuff from Hollywood. Haiti's just a 2 hour flight from Miami,Florida and yet not much has been done to really help. How ironic it is that the US decides to send tens of thousands of troops halfway across the world to Iraq and Afghanistan to chase after ghosts hiding in a few hills when the real spooky and tangible evidence is right on the American doorstep. I commend the film makers' negotiating skills that enabled them to get face to face with the Chimeres chiefs. No acting here, this is real stuff, 100% authentic stuff.
According to the U.N., the most dangerous place on earth is a slum in
Port-au-Prince, Haiti known as Cite Soleil, an area of unimaginable
poverty ruled over by armed gangs dubbed by the locals "Chimeres,"
which, loosely translated, means "ghosts." For the most part, these
Chimeres have been active supporters of the Aristide government, which,
in turn, has often paid them to intimidate and do violence against
anyone who might have the temerity to dissent from the official party
line (though the government has long denied doing so).
The documentary "Ghosts of Cite Soleil" focuses on two brothers - one who goes by the name Haitian 2Pac and the other Bily - who, at the time the movie was filmed, made up two of the five major chieftains who ruled the area. 2Pac, who describes himself on camera as a gangster/rapper and as "pure Mafia," nevertheless sees himself as a defender of the downtrodden who have been largely abandoned by the higher-ups and powerbrokers in his country. Thus, his devotion to the Aristide government is seen as tenuous and conditional at best. His younger brother, Bily, however, would appear to have political aspirations of his own, so he is more overtly loyal to the corrupt leader.
The movie was shot mainly in February 2004, which, as fortune would have it, was also the precise moment when Aristide was forcibly removed from office by groups of armed rebels, many of them former soldiers of the army that Aristide himself had earlier disbanded. Thus, the latter portion of the movie takes place in the not-much-more-stable post-Aristide era.
It's hard to imagine a more despairing film than "Ghosts of Cite Soleil," as even 2Pac himself states right up front that in this impoverished hellhole "you never live long, you always die young." Given such an assessment, is there even the faintest glimmer of hope to brighten the lives of the people who live there? Well, there's Lele, a compassionate French relief worker who devotes her life to providing medical assistance and emotional comfort to these citizens trapped in unremitting poverty and endless cycles of violence - and even helps to broker peace among some of the rival chieftains at a crucial moment. But that moment is an ephemeral and fleeting one, as the status quo of violence, hopelessness and mutual distrust is quickly reestablished there once the crisis is over.
If the movie makes one thing clear, it is that the situation in Haiti is hopelessly complex and entangled, with acts of violence coming from all sides in the daily struggle for survival and in the endless jockeying for power that takes place there. Even the brothers can't figure out if they're really allies or enemies of one another. And always, always, grinding the people down and preventing them from making a better life for themselves, there is the poverty - the debilitating, soul-crushing and inexorable poverty that rules their lives.
Congratulations to director Asger Leth and cameramen Milos Loncarevic and Frederick Jacobi for their personal courage in being willing to thrust themselves into a situation so fraught with volatility and danger. For there is rarely a moment in the movie when guns are not cocked and at the ready - and tempers not flaring. In fact, there are times when you have to remind yourself that what you're watching is not a staged docudrama but a real-time documentary - so close do the filmmakers get to actual violence.
This is definitely a must-see documentary - but prepare yourself for heartbreak.
Its a couple of years since I saw this docuflick, so what you get here
is the essence that stuck in my memory.
The two brothers and main characters are living idolizing a gangsta lifestyle and are far more gangstas than the celebrity gangstas that they idolize. These are the real gangstas from real life Partly by choice but even more by need of survival, their fascination with with the celebrity gangstas most of all represent the dream of surviving their present situation (with success). The potentially lethal and ever present tension with their surrounding environment and each other, is something that I have never seen like this in a documentary. they seem to have no choice but aggression. As a viewer you get the feeling that any sign of weakness shown by the main characters will bring them closer to death but so will their aggressiveness. This film made the African child soldier "Johnny Mad Dog" much more realistic for me.
This movie is not without flaws, but portraying it as a movie with a political agenda is a mistake. Its a movie about desperate people interacting in a poor, violent and desperate environment. The frame of the story happens to be Aristides Haiti but it could have been a lot of places.
The 9-star rating is due to the very close and personal relationship between the camera and the characters and the danger that the makers of this movie has exposed themselves to.
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