Forget the elegant horror and "torture porn" movies that have been invading lately. The dreadful reality in the slums of Port au Prince...
Forget the elegant horror and “torture porn” movies that have been invading lately. The dreadful reality in the slums of Port au Prince, Haiti — as depicted in the riveting documentary “Ghosts of Cité Soleil” — is more horrific than any tale from the crypt Hollywood could conceive.
So visceral are the events that you’ll feel the filmmakers were taking their lives into their own hands just capturing the story. At one point, one of the nearly 500,000 residents of the Cité Soleil ghetto says, “I’d kill you just to take your camera.” It’s no idle threat. This huge landscape of dirty mazes that hide blank-faced young men who threaten and maim with nary a thought of basic morality has been called “the most dangerous place on Earth” by the United Nations.
In recounting a fateful period in 2004, when President Jean-Bertrand Aristide turned his country against itself and was eventually deposed, the filmmakers had remarkable access to primary characters in the battle. The sinister warlords of Cité Soleil followed most closely are 2Pac and Bily, antagonistic yet loving brothers and members of the gangs that covertly supported Aristide’s Lavalas political party for money, or because there was nothing better to do.
The gangs are called chimeres (ghosts). The movie’s title is most apt at the end when a terse credit epigram offhandedly reveals the fate of the lives we have just been such clandestine witness to.
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Musician and Haitian expatriate Wyclef Jean makes a spiritual appearance and provides some terrific music on the soundtrack. Also on the fringes is an enigmatic French “relief worker” named Lele, who acts as a kind of conduit for us and as an erotic foil for the violence boiling in both 2Pac and Bily.
“Ghosts of Cité Soleil” is oftentimes confusing or disjointed, and always jarring in its interpretation of the facts during this turbulent time. It is, nonetheless, a spellbinding experience for being so unflinching in its harsh gaze.
Ted Fry: firstname.lastname@example.org