Description from TIFF 2006 catalog by Thom Powers:
Meet 2pac and Bily, brothers with broad smiles and big guns. In the Haitian slum of Cite~ Soleil, 2pac and Bily are among a cadre of notorious gang leaders whose foot soldiers are known as chime~~res, or ghosts. Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide reputedly employed the chime~~res to attack his opponents. Director Asger Leth had remarkable access to this gang culture in the months leading up to Aristide~s overthrow in 2004. The resulting film is a Caribbean epic of family, love and violence.
2pac and Bily have big aspirations that sometimes collide. They both fall for the same woman, Lele, a French relief worker; she~s drawn to them even as she recognizes their “power over life and death, including mine.” 2pac and Bily sometimes skirmish with each other~s soldiers. When everyone carries a gun and a spliff, tensions can escalate in a heartbeat.
Allegiances constantly shift: between 2pac and Bily, gang leaders and politicians, Aristide and the rebels. Bily wants to go legit and join Aristide~s Lavalas political party. 2pac is fed up with Aristide; he dreams of giving up guns and battling with rap lyrics instead. (Indeed, he takes his name from Tupac Shakur.)
In Ghosts of Cite~ Soleil, the camera achieves an astonishing intimacy, from bedroom romance to street warfare. The colours are saturated, with heat radiating from every surface. The director knows this country well: his father, J~~rgen Leth, has made films in Haiti since the early eighties and lived there since 1991.
Wyclef Jean collaborates on the haunting score and also appears in the film. From Haiti, 2pac calls Jean on the phone in New York City. Cameras capture both ends of this conversation between two modern Haitian legends. It~s one of several points where the viewer might wonder, Is this for real? The larger-than-life drama of Haiti seems a world away from the comfort and security of the United States. When Jean gets off the phone, he remarks, “That ain~t no Hollywood movie, that~s just the truth.”
About the director:
Asger Leth has made several short films including Gala (96) and Again. Today (97) and worked as assistant director on J~~rgen Leth~s documentary short New Scenes from America (02). He also was a writer and assistant director on J~~rgen Leth and Lars von Trier~s feature documentary The Five Obstructions (03), which screened as part of the Festival~s Real to Reel programme. Ghosts of Cite~ Soleil (06) is his first feature-length film.
Visit the film’s official website: www.ghostsofcitesoleil.com/
Buy the film: www.amazon.com/