May 01 2007
ghosts of cite soleil

Ghosts of Cite Soleil: This Ain’t No Hollywood Movie

If you know anything about gritty, gangster flicks then you’ve already seen, already own City of God. That story of gangs in Brazil and one kid’s escape from that life through photography was a work of fiction.

Ghosts of Cite Soleil is the first look at the gangs that rule the streets of Haiti. A documentary film which in the words of Wyclef.. “Ain’t No Hollywood Movie.”

But there is the ever present touch of hip-hop.. see what the Bronx started? wink

The reality of life today in Haiti unfolds before us as we get to know two brothers and their stories intimately. They are 2Pac and Bily.

Haitian 2pac

Haitian 2pac brother

Haitian gang leaders who strive to make better choices in a world with no choices at all.

Through unprecedented access, we see the brothers’ love and hatred for each other, their love triangle with Lele, a French relief worker..

Haitian 2pac - lele

.. and their unsavory pact with President Aristide during his desperate grasp to maintain power in early 2004. Speaking the language of violence and knowing that staying alive in Haiti is a very day-to-day proposition, 2Pac and Bily struggle to find a better life for themselves and for their people.

Be clear again, this is a documentary, not Spielberg on crack.

Ghosts of Cite Soleil has been making the rounds through independent film houses and arty farty festivals, most recently in the land of Prince and Saucy D at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival.

I’ll definitely catch it when it’s on DVD, maybe even buy a high-quality online version if available.

There is nothing to celebrate about gangs and thugs.

As you grow older you learn all that nonsense is really just that. More descriptively, lost souls looking for a way out - and most times not looking at all.

There is something to be learned in everything though, and let’s be honest, we all appreciate a little debauchery.

This review of the movie from Hollywood Elsewhere lays that out.

Haiti, Sex, Death

Before last Sunday night I thought of Haiti as a hopeless Caribbean shit-hole, one of the worst places to live in the world because the government corruption and the politically-motivated beatings and killings never seem to stop, and because the poverty levels for most of the citizens are beyond belief.

I still see Haiti as an island most foul, but a knockout documentary called The Ghost of Cite Soleil, a kind of Cain-and-Abel story that
was filmed just before, during and after the overthrow of Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide in March 2004, has added a new dimension.

I now see Haiti as less of a Ground Zero for abstract political terror and more of a place where people on the bottom rung are trying to live
and breathe and create their own kind of life-force energy as a way of waving away the constant hoverings of doom.

In short, this excellent 88-minute film, directed by Asger Leth (the son of Danish filmmaker Jorgan Leth), adds recognizable humanity to a

culture that has seemed more lacking in hope and human decency than any other on earth.

I saw it at the Wilshire Screening Room two days ago, and it’s been a kind of growth experience for me. I feel like I almost “get” Haiti now, and I haven’t stopped telling people about it since.

This is probably a good place for the trailer rasberry

ghosts of cite soleil

☼ What's Your Opinion? ☼

1 tpershing Wed, May 02, 2007 - 2:37 am

the reviewer gets the point- haiti is not just a hell hole, but a hell hole in which bright forgotten people strive to live and find meaning- just like us. I knew bily and 2pac when they were the brightest street boys, hanging with the western journalist covering the depredations of the early 90’s military coup- they lived a life no one in this country can even nightmare- yet they seem so tied to the hope of this place-this America- this film is flat clean real.

2 paybackishell Wed, May 02, 2007 - 12:14 pm

my uncle was killed by these pieces of shit!!! anyone that glorifies these creeps have no soul….shame! shame!

3 Roots Wed, May 02, 2007 - 1:46 pm

How do I get this movie?

4 a one sided hit piece Wed, May 02, 2007 - 3:11 pm

These poor people live in the most deep poverty.  After the 2004 coup we know that huge amount of people died in Haiti. I know of at least a dozen.  Newspapers had photos of many that were killed by the latortue police and army. Why do the western media rich people never tell the story of the 2004 coup?  They only try to demonize the poor that supported the government that the people picked with the voting box.

5 Morgann Wed, May 02, 2007 - 3:44 pm

Wow, it looks really good. Definitely want to see this when it comes out.

6 jafrikayiti Wed, May 02, 2007 - 6:11 pm

A striking feature of this “documentary” is that all the white foreigners involved got away from the so-called nightmare richer and without a scratch on their bodies. From filmmaker, cameraman, infiltrator (possibly CIA agent posing as journalist or “AID workers”). Meanwhile the black “objects” of the film end up either dead or dying with AIDS - and certainly as poor as they were before filming of the most intimate details of their tragic lives had begun.

I am shocked to see Eleonord Senlis (Lele) described as a “relief worker” when the only relief she seems to have provided was to her own sexual appetite. These young men and women were exploited in so many ways… If not Hollywood, perhaps Tuskegee is the word linked to this blacksexploitation film by yet, another filmmaker named Leth.

There are ghosts as well as monsters in this sick encounter.

7 Hans Wed, May 02, 2007 - 8:35 pm

Sounds like Jafrikayiti is just a player-hater, probably hiding out in the U.S. or Canada. Brave man, hiding from the truth. I think I would have more sympathy for the guys in this film than a cowardly soup joumou opportuniste like him.

8 Jafrikayiti Thu, May 03, 2007 - 1:38 am

Stick to the subject Hans.

How come the filmmakers had so much access in a place supposedly so dangerous - yet none of them got hurt?

Apparently, the so-called relief worker was supposed to be working on an AIDS prevention program, yet she was sleeping with the two brothers, the cameraman and who knows who else…Meanwhile at the end of the “film” Bily’s wife is left destitute and carrying HIV? What relief indeed!

After providing all this access to their lives, these young people end up dead…

Young men like 2Pac and Bily are dying in similar conditions in Cote d’Ivoire and other African countries… where politicians of all nationalities are exploiting their conditions. A poster mentioned the fact that this is a one-sided hit piece. That is because the role the U.S. embassy and other white supremacist forces that participated in the 2004 coup d’A?Actat which fueled these conflicts is never addressed by the so-called filmmakers. Who is hiding from the truth here?

If, based on his convictions, Bily was supporting the constitutional government of Haiti and its demonized president,Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was 2Pac working for? Who organized this neat infiltration into their lives - with camera and all?
What is the other side of the story? Beyond the easy stereotypes on which the film seems to prey, who were the actors fueling all this recorded black-on-black violence?

Now that President Aristide has been confined to Africa by the CIA and its agents, who and what is fueling ongoing gang violence in Haiti?

Do these American filmmakers have the courage to investigate that also? Why not?

What is the nature of Eleonore Senlis’ real work? What is her relationship with the cameraman? What is their connection to Kosovo?
What has the financial “success” of this film meant for the black wife and kids Bily left behind? These impoverished people whose most intimate moments were used in the film…what are they to gain from this production?

These may not be questions you are interested to entertain but some of us find them pertinent and no amount of intimidation will stop people from raising them.

9 disgruntled_chica Sat, May 05, 2007 - 10:21 am

“Ghosts of Cite Soleil has been making the rounds through independent film houses and arty farty festivals, most recently in the land of Prince and Saucy D at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival.”

Funny how this is the first post I gravitated towards, today. And surprise! The film is in my area.  Didn’t know anything about it—going to have to check it out.  Thanks Chris:)


10 disgruntled_chica Sat, May 05, 2007 - 10:30 am

damn. i missed the showings. . .

a day late and probably a dollar short.

11 Rai Sat, May 12, 2007 - 1:36 pm

‘City of God’ is based on a true story..

12 loser Mon, May 14, 2007 - 10:10 pm

city of losers is based on a true story

13 Canadian Observer Sat, Sep 15, 2007 - 7:28 pm

Leth and the others involved in this film deserve a certain sick congratulations—they would have made Leni Riefenstahl proud as they have wrapped a lurid and voyeuristic glance at the lives of desperately poor Haitian slum-dwellers in an incredibly ham-fisted propaganda coating that only reinforces the ongoing racist perceptions of Haiti.

It was a US, French, and Canadian backed coup d’etat that followed years of pathologically cruel financial embargo.  The embargo and the violence of the coup only further accelerated the vicious downward spiral of Haitian suffering—so it is important to continue to produce cultural product that completely disguises what happened and allows the wealthy and mostly white power-brokers to sustain the mythology that this suffering can be safely blamed on Haitians themselves and their violent culture.

In a certain twisted way, this film is brilliant - but the reality of Haiti’s recent political and economic history have to be at least partly understood to realize the character and content of that brilliance.