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Ghosts of Cit Soleil

Ghosts of Cit Soleil – Review


Towards the end of the violent and ruthless rule of President Aristide of Haiti, gangs known as the Chimères – or ghosts – are running around the slums of the capital, Port-au-Prince, using fear and violence to enforce his brutal dictatorship.
In the most violent suburb of all – Cité Soleil – the two gang leaders are brothers 2pac and Bily.
In typical fashion, it’s not just power that draws them together – they also both fall for the same international aid worker, Éleonor.
One of their few links to the outside world is through a friendship with their fellow Haitian – but US-resident – rapper Wyclef Jean, who inspires them to write their own music.
The eventual overthrow of Aristide in a military coup almost irreparably damages the gangsters’authority and changes the politics on the ground for good.


This rough and cheap documentary provides an interesting insight into life in the Haitian slums, but it felt somewhat dated. We were being shown a story in 2007 about events that happened three years ago, and there was no suggestion of how things are there now. Are things better, worse, different, the same?
Also, the film describes Cite Soleil as “the most dangerous place on earth,” but knowing what’s going on in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza, among others, Haiti’s biggest slum didn’t really seem that dangerous.
We didn’t even see much violence. The attempt to humanise the brothers – perhaps to try to get us to empathise with them – served mostly to emasculate them.
There was more about their love for the same woman and their desire to be making music than there was about their fight to enforce the will of President Aristide.
Despite effective use of news footage to explain the background, the distinction between and hierarchy of the gangsters wasn’t particularly clear and by not being judgemental – either about them or the political situation – the film leaves you rather cold.
We don’t really see how 2pac and Bily got into the gangs, how they rose to the top – neither seems particularly fearsome – or what they got out of it – it’s not like they had regular afternoon tea with the president, for example.
It’s all rather cheap and inconsequential. With so many documentaries making it to the big screen these days, to stand out, they really need to have more of a story and more interesting characters. And at the very least, a documentary needs some kind of a message.
I need to be convinced by the film-maker that it was worth their time making it and mine watching it.

opens nationwide 20th July 2007

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