The Ghosts Of Cite Soleil DVD Review

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To paraphrase French novelist Honore de Balzac, tell me how much money a man has, and I’ll tell you how he thinks. The same could be applied to cinema today. Tell me who funded your film, and the politics will be revealed immediately, whether covertly masked behind flamboyant dramatic distractions or not. Such is the case with the historically self-serving and shamelessly manipulative supposed ‘documentary,’ Ghosts Of Cite Soleil.

This Asger Leth directed series of chaotic impressions with many missing parts, of Haiti prior to and during the US/French orchestrated ousting of democratically elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, reinvents history. And in effect demands that the viewer believe, without any neutral or opposing views, that CIA funded ex-military officers accused of mass crimes against humanity inflicted on their own people, convicted murderers, drug smugglers and arms traders, in effect ‘liberated’ Haiti from its duly elected government and drove Aristide into exile.

Aristide, on the other hand, when interviewed, will tell anyone who might care to listen, that the military coup was all about privatization. And his criticism of multinational privatization and further impoverishment of his country, by succumbing to monetary debt slavery, that contemporary form of imperialism.

To convince the audience in a most heavy handed way – between brashly entertaining music video style vignettes penetrating with an obscenely exoticized gaze and cashing in on the misery of the poverty-stricken slums of Soleil – the Danish filmmaker presents as his choice of learned historians and political analysts of the moment, select illiterate young lumpen proletarian thugs who reside there. And who not coincidentally, aspire to a not so subtle intimated promise of US contracts as rap artists.

That’s more than a little like recruiting the lowlife self-serving opportunists of the US reality show de jour as Harvard professors and government political advisors, in this dumbed down era when apparently reality shows rule over the intellectual life of this country. And the gullible film critics out there – hello fellow critics – unbelievably accepting without question what these gangsters have to say about their guns, their death squad mode of operation and links to Aristide, is a little like reporting as fact the US Crips and Bloods insisting they got their guns handed over from George Bush. Though most guns distributed here and abroad, both legally and illegally, do originate from the biggest gun runner in the world, the United States.

In addition to the anti-Aristide diatribes mouthed a little too eagerly and on cue by these young hooligans, we’re also treated to a French female relief worker whose most prominent skill seems to be hopping into bed and providing voyeuristic sexual relief to one of the gabby gangsters. Not to mention that ‘relief worker’ is often a code word for intelligence operative in the Third World.

So, the most pressing question seems to be an underlying one. Namely, who funded Ghosts Of Cite Soleil, who has the most to gain in promoting this US/French imperialist propaganda posing as a documentary, and who is the producer, really. Well, none of the above information is forthcoming from the filmmaker. However, it seems that producer Mikael Rieks is a devout religious propagandist in the service of the Catholic Church, which also has its dominant reactionary agenda in Haiti. (And whose current Pope worked for decades to eradicate progressive church liberation theology throughout Latin America in countries like Nicaragua, and including against Aristide himself, a liberation theology proponent. The Catholic Church in fact fears now, a return of Aristide). Rieks’ body of work includes questionable gems like The Power Of The Spirits, Short Film About Faith, and God Lives In Florida. Enough said.

At a most unfortunate time when the commercial media has been gobbled up by corporate interests, and their journalistic professionalism has mutated and been subjugated into corporate political and economic agendas, the US public in its frustrated quest for truth, has turned to documentaries for untainted information. And many such filmmakers are admirably taking up this urgent and necessary mission. But apparently corporate elements along with the religious right wing have taken notice and infiltrated the filmmaking world, when it comes to documentaries as well as feature films.

While there are those who are prone to point out that, ‘it’s only a film, so who cares what the truth may be,’ the more pertinent issue is, why go to elaborate lengths to lie, when you can simply tell the truth? Ghosts Of Cite Soleil is, in summing up, a lumpen version of history in the service of neo-colonialism. Oh, and yes perhaps a US recording contract too.

A ThinkFilm/Velocity Home Entertainment Release

DVD Features: Theatrical trailer and a trailer gallery.

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.