Ghosts of Cité Soleil: True-Life Thug Life in Haiti

Asger Leth's documentary explores the Port-au-Prince slum Cité Soleil, identified by a U.N. agency as the "most dangerous place on earth." It's a prismatic, jagged, none-too-coherent travelogue—a portrait of Haiti's post-Aristide political chaos centered on the rivalry between two gang leaders or "ghosts": the charismatic 2pac (also a rap artist) and his aggrieved brother, Bily. The two supported Aristide, but although both eventually turned against the beleaguered president, they are equally threatened by the rival criminal gangs that deposed Aristide in 2004. Leth allows the two men to speak directly to his camera, mainly in English. Their threats and boasts are made against a roiling backdrop of street demonstrations, suffering babies, power cuts, and voodoo rituals. This urgently choppy, often inexplicable, series of incidents finally ignites, as Port-au-Prince becomes a total free-fire zone. Leth gained remarkable access to his subjects, such as one citizen of Cité Soleil who stares dispassionately into the lens and tells the filmmaker, "I feel like killing you to take the camera." It's not difficult to believe he would. Every documentary has its own process; in this case, that backstory might overwhelm the film.

 
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