Ghosts of Cite Soleil
Review by Jack Foley
HAITI is often described as “the most dangerous place on earth” and Asger Leth’s hard-hitting documentary Ghosts of Cite Soleil demonstrates why.
The film follows the fortunes of two brothers, 2Pac and Bily, Haitian gang leaders who strive to survive while being used as pawns in a volatile political situation.
Thanks to their unsavoury pact with President Aristide during the power struggle of early 2004, the brothers were able to wage a campaign of fear against any political opponents which also made them targets.
But they also shared a love for French relief worker Lele, which threatened to place them at odds with one another.
Leth’s film gives viewers an unprecedented insight into this hellish environment, and chronicles the various attempts by both 2Pac and Bily to change for the better.
But it’s an extremely hard watch and exists in morally ambiguous territory.
By their own admission, 2Pac and Bily are killers yet Leth often seems to be taking a sympathetic view of their plight that paints them in a much more tragic light than they deserve.
His filming technique also creates a lot of confusion and seems inspired by Tony Scott at his most frenetic (think Domino, then add some!). It might add to the rawness of the story but it could just as easily turn viewers off.
On the plus side, Ghosts of Cite Soleil succeeds in painting a grim picture of life in one of the world’s most hostile environments (located just two hours off the coast of Miami Beach).
But it’s a gruelling experience that seems to be coming from an odd perspective, no doubt fuelled by the obvious dangers of getting it shot in the first place.
Running time: 88mins