UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Ghosts of Cité Soleil

Documentary focuses on two brothers caught in Haitian slum

By Patricia Ingold

Ghosts of Cité Soleil
Directed by Asger Leth and Milos
Loncarevic
THINK Film

In February 2004, Danish film director Asger Leth was in the troubled nation of Haiti to work on a film about local gang leaders. As he filmed, rebellion swept the country and controversial President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled to Africa. The rebellion and its aftermath add a particular resonance to Leth’s unsettling documentary, Ghosts of Cité Soleil.

The film focuses on brothers Bily and 2Pac, enforcers in a gang of armed thugs. Known locally as Chimères (ghosts), the gangs are paid to intimidate opponents of Aristide’s government in the streets of Port-au-Prince’s notorious slum, Cité Soleil.

Softspoken Bily is unexpectedly humane, giving money to children for school and talking of one day becoming president. Brother 2Pac is lean and menacing, and gets plenty of screen time to indulge in his drug-fuelled monologues. Advancement for him is a career as a rap singer. After Aristide flees Haiti, the brothers are forced to hand over their weapons to UN peacekeepers and face an uncertain future. As 2Pac observes, the new government will always take revenge on the defenders of the old regime.

Ghosts of Cité Soleil has the look and sound of a music video. A hand-held camera captures the urgent, angry streets to the beat of a music score by Haitian-born rap star Wyclef Jean. News reports from the era fill in the political details. It falters when the scripting gets too heavy-handed, such as an awkward resolution of a love triangle between the two brothers and a French aid worker, and a shamelessly self-promoting scene with Wyclef Jean. These sequences appear to have been staged and detract from the effectiveness of the film.

The film has enormous sympathy for Bily and 2Pac. One wonders how the film would have played out if the rebellion hadn’t happened and the brothers continued to rule inside Cité Soleil. The guns they carry are not toys. The director was either not permitted or chose not to reveal the full scope of their activities within the slum. What remains is a pessimistic story of victims bound by blood, trapped by poverty and violence, who might as well already be dead. They’re not called Chimères for nothing.


Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Faith

The author is baptized at Central United in Calgary. (Photo courtesy of Al Coe)

Why I got baptized in a United Church at the age of 42

by Jacqueline Mercer-Livesey

"I told myself that I didn’t need to go to church to believe in God. I found peace and the Holy Spirit in the things that surrounded me. But still, there was a nagging sense of something missing."

Promotional Image

Observations

Editor/Publisher of The Observer, Jocelyn Bell.

Observations: The rewards of letting go

by Jocelyn Bell

Editor Jocelyn Bell reflects on the upcoming changes for The United Church of Canada, the magazine and in her own life.

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Two nurses tackle Vancouver's opioid crisis

Richard Moore is a resident of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. In this poignant interview, he explains the important work of nurses Evanna Brennan and Susan Giles.

Promotional Image

Faith

July 2018

250 United Church leaders have a message for Doug Ford

by Emma Prestwich

They're urging the new Ontario premier to remember those in need as he carries out promised economic reform.

Culture

July 2018

Tracing Nelson Mandela’s path a century after his birth

by Tim Johnson

A travel writer visits some of the places that shaped the anti-apartheid icon’s life.

Interviews

July 2018

Jamil Jivani sheds light on why young men radicalize

by Suzanne Bowness

In his book 'Why Young Men,' Jamil Jivani talks about his own experience as a troubled youth.

Promotional Image