Ghosts of the Cite Soleil

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The ViewChristchurch Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/07/2007

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 88 mins

Gripping, powerful documentary with a terrific soundtrack and a compelling narrative that resonates on both a personal and political level.

What's it all about?
In 2004, Haiti was under the control of President Aristide, who unofficially employed gangs of thugs known as Chimeres (or Ghosts) to keep order in the slums of Port-au-Prince (the area known as Cite Soleil). The film examines the relationship between two of the Chimeres gang leaders who are also brothers: charismatic rapper 2Pac and politically aware Bily.

When Aristide goes into exile, the new government targets the Chimeres (aided by American troops) and the brothers clash over their differing political views. It also doesn't help that both men have a crush on the same woman, French relief worker Lele Senlis.

The Good
Danish filmmaker Asger Leth has been granted extraordinary access to his subjects; his cameras are present both in intimate bedroom scenes and on the streets during extremely volatile situations, such as 2Pac looking for a rival gang leader, in scenes which recall showdowns in Westerns. 2Pac does a lot of bigging himself up to camera, but the portrait that emerges of him is surprisingly sensitive, despite the chaos and violence that surrounds him.

It's a testament to the charisma of both Bily and 2Pac that the supposedly neutral Lele is drawn to both men. This leads to a heart-breaking scene where she has to tell one brother that she's chosen the other one, which is just one of several heart-stopping moments in the film.

The Great
There's also a terrific soundtrack, courtesy of Wyclef Jean (who briefly appears) and Jerry Wonda Duplessis, as well as 2Pac's own provocative, energetic and heartfelt rap songs. It's fascinating to see the importance of rap music here, where the people in the slums have to live without education or basic services.

Worth seeing?
This is a gripping, impressively directed documentary that resembles a real life City of God, only set in Haiti. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 19/08/2019 01:44

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