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In the slum of Cité Soleil, President Aristide's most loyal supporters were ruling as kings. The five major gang leaders were controlling heavily armed young men; the Chiméres. The Secret army of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. "Ghosts of Cité Soleil" is a film about Billy and Haitian 2pac. Two brothers. Gang Leaders of the Chiméres. Written by
Asger Leth offers a rare glimpse into the world of Haiti's largest slum through through his remarkable recorded encounters with the Chimeres ('ghosts'), a loose organisation of gangs supporting President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Among the Ghosts of Cite Soleil are two brothers, Bily and 2Pac, whose changing perspectives and fortunes are documented alongside Aristide's downfall in the face of an armed rebellion. Bily, 2Pac and their fellow gang-members patrol the streets of Cite Soleil to a soundtrack of rap music, fraternising one moment and racketeering the next; there are guns everywhere and the peace is never more than tenuous. Leth's own camera-work, itself shorn of commentary, is interspersed with newsreel footage of Aristide's worsening fortunes to provide a lucid backdrop to the unfolding drama on the street.
Leth attained remarkable access when recording this film; we see 2Pac showering naked on two occasions and are witness to his startling and intimate affair with Lele, a French aid worker. Yet Leth does not reveal how this access is attained he chooses not to show the seams of his documentary style and this leaves many important questions unanswered. Due to editing we do not hear Leth's voice, whether he is speaking to one of the Chimeres or to an expert on Haitian affairs. The lack of a 'presenter' which contrasts with TV documentary series such as Unreported World means that the subjects speak directly to us and not through a translator, but at the same time we are left with little clue of the questions that are being put across by the film-maker.
In the absence of a presenter or commentator the camera takes on a greater role in interviewing people. In the presence of the camera, 2Pac and Bily are often full of bluster about their status in Cite Soleil. Such scenes are revealing about the self-image and social interaction in Cite Soleil but they draw the film away from the more detached style of observation employed by many documentaries. This is a film closely centred on Bily and 2Pac and those viewers expecting a lucid account of life in a Haitian slum will be disappointed. Ghosts of Cite Soleil nevertheless succeeds as a unique and compelling portrait of gang life in Haiti.
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