Billed as a Caribbean epic of family, love and violence, GHOSTS OF CITE SOLEIL takes us inside the lives of notorious gang leaders who dominate the Haitian slum of Cite Soleil. The reality of life today in Haiti unfolds be... more »fore us as we get to know two brothers and their stories intimately. They are 2Pac and Bily, 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, 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.« less
"This movie was obviously not a scripted documentary and seemed more like a personal, intimate video journal, shot in a tough, third world city where residents needed to survive however they could.
But as the other reviewers pointed out, this movie had a heavy, yet subtle bias. The film never mentioned the source for the financial backing behind the return of the opposition army, the propoganda surrounding Haiti's civil war or the documentation showing U.S.A. and France were were involved prior to their "peace-keeping" activities. They movie misses the bloodbath following unseating an elected leader in favor of returning a dictator. But that has also become such a common script for U.S. foreign affairs since WWII, that it's not very hard to spot anymore.
Complicated? Yes. And that's why this movie is so worthwhile seeing. Despite the obvious bias, the movie was shot through the eyes of people fighting for their elected leader and the viewer is pulled into their personal dilemnas and can't help identifing with their desires. The armed gangs that exist in Haiti are gradually revealed weren't about personal power as much as they were born out of a need for survival, a sense of order - and strangley, a quest for peace. That story became the real intrique of the movie for me. It didn't seem to matter who lead the country as long as violence created more violence.
If the movie had added even one line giving it a more objective context, I wouldn't hesitate to give it 5 stars. I found the subtitles were easy to follow since over half the movie was in broken english. The story moved along quickly without any dull moments. All the characters were believable since they were real and engaging. But what impressed me was the fact I wanted to watch it again, soon. That's a rarity for me and I'm sure I'll see even more into it next time.
Even with a bias. I have a hard time believing anyone could sit mindlessly through this movie and not feel like they watched a unique movie with a lot to think about afterwards. For those reasons, I gave the rest of the movie the highest marks possible. It's a must-see movie."
A good documentary that could have been excellent...
M. B. Alcat | Los Angeles, California | 03/21/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
""Ghosts of Cite Soleil" is a good documentary that could have been excellent, if its directors had chosen to dedicate some time to provide the spectator with a better context regarding what was happening in Haiti at the time this film was made, 2004. Without it, we "see" what was happening during Haiti's civil war through the eyes of two gang leaders who took active part in it, but we don't really understand what is going on, or why.
That doesn't mean this documentary is not worth watching, as it gives you an idea of what the lives of the people who lived in the slum of Cité Soleil were like, and the few choices they had in order to stay alive. Become a chimere (or "ghost") and be a part of the gang or die, kill or be killed. Furthermore, "Ghosts of Cite Soleil" prompts you to find out on your own what it doesn't give you, that is, at least a little more information regarding the historical, political, social and economic roots of the deep unrest we witness throughout the film.
On the whole, I can say that "Ghosts of Cite Soleil" portrays a shocking and violent reality in a crude but effective way. I recommend this documentary, but with some reservations: it is not perfect, and it is certainly not for the weak of heart.
Out of context
C. Biewald | CMB 617 | 01/11/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
Cite Soleil is an important movie to see and understand, if it is kept in context. The film portrays conditions that are real and are not well understood throughout most of the developed world. It gives criminals and gangsters a real face, and lets the world see that it is truly the conditions of Cite Soliel, the abject poverty and decimating hunger that offer no path to real success, or even real happiness. The footage is excellent and shockingly powerful. With fitting music, the cinematic features of the film stand out.
The picture is however, dangerous. It is a twisted misrepresentation of the situation in Haiti. The film makers bias and agenda are clear. Each and every press voice over are the standard right wing propaganda that have been proven false countless times in recent literature on the subject. Without a real understanding of the situation, the vast popular support for Aristide, the United States support of the violent and oppressive Haitian military and undermining of the legitimate government, and Billy and 2pac's loud mouth and bragging about a "relationship" with Aristide, the worry is that people who pick up this film will come away without any understanding of recent Haitian history will be completely ignorant to what the U.S. role and responsibility toward Haiti should be. "
J. Yri | Norway | 12/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Just to make a brief sincere recommendation: if you are trying to understand more about Haiti (like me), this documentary provides a fantastic opportunity to get to know some of the people of Cite Soleil. History in the making, as they happened to be present in Haiti at the time of president Aristide being removed from power. Great work!"
Depressing but riveting documentary
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 06/29/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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 tiniest 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."