Ghosts Of Cite Soleil

THINKfilm. <i>88 Minutes</i>.<br /> Here the strong rule, but they don’t necessarily survive.

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


The ghosts in Danish filmmaker Asger Leth’s unsparing documentary are the chimères, armed thugs who preside over the Haitian ghetto of Cité Soleil (“Sun City”), an overcrowded quarter of Port-au-Prince that’s been described by the United Nations as the world’s most dangerous place. Here the strong rule, but they don’t necessarily survive. The chimères backed former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a one-time democrat gone bad, in street battles against the rebels who deposed him in early 2004. But in Ghosts of Cité Soleil, they focus much of their rage on one another.

Penetrating this normally closed world, Leth offers a cinematic portrait that is both fragmentary and astonishingly intimate. He focuses his handheld cameras on two powerful young gang leaders, 2Pac and Bily, siblings whose relationship veers from wary alliance to confrontation and back again. As his nickname suggests, the darkly charismatic 2Pac aspires to be a rap star. Bily boasts of his closeness to Aristide and his largesse to his own people, whom he provides with money and food. But he rules by terror, shooting one of his gang members in the foot to punish alleged disrespect. An even more enigmatic figure is Lele, a French relief worker who is attracted to both brothers. Is the danger they pose an aphrodisiac, or has she discovered depths of feeling in their damaged souls that the camera can’t detect?

Alternating scenes of violence and self-reflection, with dialogue in English, French, and Creole, Leth creates a vision of a claustrophobic world that is even harder to leave than to enter. In this hell, the most hardened criminals long for respite, if not redemption. “I know in Cité Soleil you never live long—always die young,” says 2Pac. He is more prescient than he knows.


WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

payment methods

WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate