Cité Soleil has been labeled by the United Nations as "the most dangerous place on Earth."
"Ghosts of Cité Soleil" shows us why.
This documentary, directed by Asger Leth (son of Danish filmmaker Jorgen Leth), is a frightening, almost unbearable look at the disintegration of Haitian society during the year in which former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide lost power of this island nation.
Whereas the recent "Hip Hop Project" took a stylized approach in documenting an often unseen counterculture, Cité Soleil simply takes a hardcore approach to looking at a definitely hardcore culture. Given access and safety during filming by the "chimeres" (translates as "ghosts"), who largely supported Aristide and lorded themselves over Cité Soleil with an iron first, Leth's film is an intensely graphic, raw and no-holds-barred look at the heart of rebellion and violence within a culture.
Leth focuses his cameras largely upon two brothers who lord over separate sections of Cité Soleil. 2pac, the more charismatic and volatile of the two, aspires to being a rapper and, at one point, even finds himself on the phone with Haiti native Wyclef Jean (who Leth would later recruit as an executive producer for the film). Bily, on the other hand, is a less charismatic leader who aspires to leadership in Aristide's Lavalas party.
Into this mix, along with other chimeres of varying import, enters Lele, a blond Frenchwoman and relief worker, who serves as a sort of cultural translator between the filmmaker and his subjects while eventually falling in love with 2pac.
The fact that such a seemingly tender love exists in Cité Soleil seems a tad remarkable given the stark surroundings and violence that surrounds everyone.
As we all know, eventually Aristide's presidency falls and the chimeres become targeted by the nation's new leadership along with the peacekeeping forces of the United States and France. The ill-fated brothers, ultimately devoted to peace in their nation, fall victim to political games and deceptive practices from the nation's new leadership, the Americans and the French.
Production design, as could be expected, is less than stellar. Shot largely on 16mm, "Ghosts of Cité Soleil" is a difficult to watch, impossible to ignore documentary about a nation that has been too long ignored and the even more powerful nations that far too often take advantage of the situation.