Ghosts of Cite Soleil: Don’t Believe the Hype

The director is Danish, not German, but Ghosts of Cite Soleil makes heroes of the made-in-Washington leaders of Haiti’s 2004 coup in a manner reminiscent of Leni Riefenstahl’s adoration for Adolf Hitler in her famous film from the 1930s, Triumph of the Will. It builds a web of lies — lies of omission and lies of commission — into the “Big Lie” — a stylized, decontextualized, post-modern, sexy/violent piece of propaganda disguised as a documentary, full of guns but signifying nothing.

Ghosts of Cite Soleil claims to reveal the intimate personal lives of two gangsters who are brothers, Bily and 2Pac, in the deprived Cite Soleil neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. When introducing them to several foreign journalists, filmmaker Kevin Pina (Harvest of Hope, Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits) made the following comment, “Billy and I had a falling out over the question of his accepting money from foreign journalists to hype this question of Aristide and gangsters. The more they paid the more outlandish became his claims …”

The director, Asger Leth, would have us believe the majority of people of Cite Soleil don’t support President Aristide, and that those who do are forced to do so by armed gangsters. He ignores the fact that massive pro-Aristide demonstrations have taken place in Cite Soliel repeatedly since the coup. In one scene, a Cite Soleil crowd shouts, “Five full years, Five full years.” Leth translates, but does not explain the significance — the people want Aristide back to finish his full five-year term.

The film doesn’t tell us that “Opposition leaders” Andy Apaid and Charles Henry Baker are also sweatshop owners who hate Aristide because he wanted to raise the minimum wage and make them pay taxes, which the rich don’t do in Haiti.

We’re told President Aristide left voluntarily — no mention of his kidnapping by the US military and his ongoing banishment from the continent. We see jubilant crowds of Aristide opponents waving as the coup makers drive into town, giving the impression most Haitians supported the coup. We don’t see the US, French, and Canadian soldiers guarding the route and making the entrance possible. We don’t learn that Port-au-Prince was totally defended the day of Aristide’s kidnapping, and the coup leaders would never have been able to take it over militarily. Instead Uncle Sam came to the rescue.

We’re not told that Louis Jodel Chamblain worked with the Duvalier dictatorship’s brutal militia, the Tonton Macoutes, in the 1980s; that following a military coup against Aristide in 1991, he was the “operations guy” for the FRAPH paramilitary death squad, accused of murdering uncounted numbers of Aristide supporters and introducing gang rape into Haiti as a military weapon.

We’re not told that Guy Phillipe is a former Haitian police chief who was trained by US Special Forces in Ecuador in the early 1990s, or that the US embassy admitted that Phillipe was involved in the transhipment of narcotics, one of the key sources of funds for paramilitary attacks on the poor in Haiti. He says the man he most admires is former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Leth portrays both of these men as credible spokespersons, not gangsters.

Where did the weapons of the coup-makers come from? Who organized and trained them? Who spent tens of millions of dollars to create an “opposition movement” in Haiti? The United States is the real ghost in this film — it simply does not exist, except for its official version of events, scripted by George W. Bush, which Ghosts of Cite Soleil follows scrupulously.

Ghosts of Cite Soleil
plays like a manipulative music video, featuring music by Haitian rapper Wyclef Jean, also the executive producer, who supported the coup and pushed the State Department line among the conscious hip-hop community and progressive celebrities in Hollywood. This contrasts to the principled stand of Danny Glover, Ruby Dee and her late, great husband Ossie Davis. You can almost hear the violins behind Chamblain, as he talks about his return to Haiti, but the music becomes dissonant and menacing behind Aristide or behind 2Pac and Bily, who speak English no less, but we never learn why. Like we never learn who, or why about anything in this movie, a piece of soft core propaganda, cleverly, consciously, and seductively made. Candy may be sweet, but it rots your teeth.

Charlie Hinton is with the Haiti Action Committee. Read other articles by Charlie, or visit Charlie's website.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Scarlett said on November 17th, 2007 at 10:48pm #

    Badass article. Well said.

  2. Alex said on November 18th, 2007 at 2:04am #

    Well said. I agree with almost all you write (I’m not sure about the Riefenstahl comparison).
    But the film is an outrageous travesty and I’m amazed that Leth, who was Danish consul to Haiti, could do something so palpably dishonest. And how on earth did the absurd French aid worker agree to take part? People I’ve spoken to in Haiti – including two who knew and worked with her – feel betrayed by the film.
    I spent a week in Cite Soleil in September – I might have been on a different planet from that portrayed in this shoddy exploitative piece of work.

  3. Graham said on November 18th, 2007 at 9:18am #

    Yeah, the Leth’s have been exploiting Haiti for some time (Asgar’s father sexually abused young Haitian women then bragged about it back in Europe.)

  4. Stanley Lucas said on November 18th, 2007 at 3:28pm #

    RNDDH’s Concern Increases Due to the Mismanagement of State Affairs
    Posté le September 29th, 2006

    In the last number of days, the National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) has noted several deviations in the management of public security by State authorities. Greatly concerned by these matters, RNDDH draws attention to the following facts:

    I. The United Nations Stabilizing Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) announced that Jean Daniel François, alias Bibi, who is actively sought by the Haitian National Police, relinquished three weapons to MINUSTAH and remains in their custody, awaiting a decision from the new National Commission of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (CNDDR); a program implemented by the Alexis/Préval Government.

    RNDDH was surprised by MINUSTAH’s decision to have Bibi remain in their custody as they have no holding cells for prisoners. …

  5. Dave said on November 18th, 2007 at 4:34pm #

    I agree 100 % with this review. I am also not sure about the actress/social worker used as a bate in the film. The film poses big ethical questions in terms of documentary filmmaking. It is also racist as it presents the same old colonial image of the black republic in perpetual tribal fight and gives us no context (we have enough Ridley Scott for good fictions). Also, the fimmakers could have shown some
    compassion and try to help Tupac and his brother and get them out of the country after exploiting (I am sure they made quite a bit some money) them. Instead they let them being slaughtered by the defacto gvt and probably eaten by dogs in the streets.

  6. Dave said on November 19th, 2007 at 10:55am #

    For good infos on who Stanley Lucas is please read this investigative report below:

    Not a patriot really. A real whore for US imperialistic’s orgies in the south.

  7. vicki said on December 5th, 2007 at 11:16am #

    does anyone know what happened to billy and 2pac or have a website that tells me what happened if so please email me thanks

  8. AhPoorBabies said on April 20th, 2009 at 6:47pm #

    Better yet, who CARES what happened to those two asswipes? The whole wannabe-gangsta posturing by the brothers and their posse was impossible to watch, and the end was merciful….for the audience.