Ghosts Of Cite Soleil

THINKfilm. <i>88 Minutes</i>.<br /> Here the strong rule, but they don’t necessarily survive.

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


The ghosts in Danish filmmaker Asger Leth’s unsparing documentary are the chimères, armed thugs who preside over the Haitian ghetto of Cité Soleil (“Sun City”), an overcrowded quarter of Port-au-Prince that’s been described by the United Nations as the world’s most dangerous place. Here the strong rule, but they don’t necessarily survive. The chimères backed former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a one-time democrat gone bad, in street battles against the rebels who deposed him in early 2004. But in Ghosts of Cité Soleil, they focus much of their rage on one another.

Penetrating this normally closed world, Leth offers a cinematic portrait that is both fragmentary and astonishingly intimate. He focuses his handheld cameras on two powerful young gang leaders, 2Pac and Bily, siblings whose relationship veers from wary alliance to confrontation and back again. As his nickname suggests, the darkly charismatic 2Pac aspires to be a rap star. Bily boasts of his closeness to Aristide and his largesse to his own people, whom he provides with money and food. But he rules by terror, shooting one of his gang members in the foot to punish alleged disrespect. An even more enigmatic figure is Lele, a French relief worker who is attracted to both brothers. Is the danger they pose an aphrodisiac, or has she discovered depths of feeling in their damaged souls that the camera can’t detect?

Alternating scenes of violence and self-reflection, with dialogue in English, French, and Creole, Leth creates a vision of a claustrophobic world that is even harder to leave than to enter. In this hell, the most hardened criminals long for respite, if not redemption. “I know in Cité Soleil you never live long—always die young,” says 2Pac. He is more prescient than he knows.


We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate