The documentary wagon rolls on with this sassy chronicle of events surrounding the violent ‘peacekeeping’ gangsters of Cité Soleil, a district of Port-au-Prince in Haiti. This vast precinct of despair exemplifies the words ‘slum’ and ‘dysfunctional’: it’s filthy, dilapidated beyond belief and inhabited by some of the most destitute (and violent) people in the western world.
Danish director Asger Leth takes us back to 2004 and into the living rooms of this godforsaken place. His film focuses on brothers Bily (baby-faced, jovial but prone to bouts of heavy-duty violence) and 2Pac (seemingly wiser and more tolerant but equally unpleasant). Both are gang ‘chiefs’ of the local Chimeras (‘ghosts’). Intoxicated with restorative smoke, 2Pac talks about nothing but killing, death, respect and how much he supports the country’s leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Hardly surprising, since Aristide enlisted these thugs and their well-armed followers into his civilian police force. This is a dog-eat-dog world with no ethical guidance from anyone, save for a young French relief worker called Lele who falls for both Bily and 2Pac’s gangster charms while trying to instill some basic morals into them. Maybe an impending coup will persuade the fractious brothers to call it a day.
Leth’s gritty, haphazardly edited film plays like a music video, with jagged rap sequences interlaced with urgent handheld Super 8-style footage and a stonking shanty-blues soundtrack. It’s an uncomfortable film to watch, not least because of its seeming glamourisation of gang violence; some more delving into its subjects’ psyches wouldn’t have gone amiss. You feel its audience will fall into two camps; those who admire their violent lifestyle and those who abhor it.