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Zombie Town

Haiti is the poorest country of the West Indies, and the slums of Port-au-Prince are some of the worst in the world.
VICE Staff
Κείμενο VICE Staff

This lady is possessed. All film stills from Asger Leth’s upcoming documentary, Ghost of Cite Soleil.

ice: So, what’re the Chimeres? Asger Leth: They’re a private army that took their orders straight from Aristede and his closest advisers. They were supposed to be a replacement for the typical strong-arm army you find in most dictatorships, but they were in many ways scarier than the Tonton Macoute [Papa Doc’s army], because at least the Tonton wore some kind of uniform. They all wore dark sunglasses. Jesus. Sunglasses? Why does that scare us so much? Anyway, Aristede’s army didn’t wear any identification, right? They could have been anyone. So can you tell us about the people in these shots? The focus of our work there was on a gang led by these two brothers, Tupac and Billy. They were defending President Aristede, his last bastion against the Cannibal Army, a group of rebels in the mountains who wanted to overthrow him. The people in these pictures, their lives were at stake, and they were fighting for a president who they suspected would leave them behind. And he did.
How did they feel about you? They were actually really happy about having us there. You see, before, people would write about them, but no one had actually gotten into it with them before. It’s like, just imagine the situation—you’re in your late teens and you kind of know you’re going to die soon. They just wanted to have their story told. And now they are all dead. What happened? Well they did actually manage to negotiate peace with the rebels. Everyone put their guns down. But then came one of the hardest things I had to watch: how these brothers reacted to peace. Well? They instantly turned on each other, and they almost killed each other. I don’t know why. Can you guess? It’s probably to do with living in this awful slum. There’s so much private tension, and everyone keeps a lid on it because the situation around them demands it. But as soon as the external pressure around them eases, their personal problems just come shooting out all over the place. Literally. What is that white powder on some of the women’s faces? The powder is flour I think, but I’m not sure. It is used for a special voodoo—or voudun, if you want to spell it right—ceremony celebrating the spirit of Gede. It’s quite a wild thing. The women become possessed. What’s that one shot with the baby dangling with its umbilical cord still on? That’s a birth. That’s how they do it. See how Tupac’s belly button is really big? It’s from that—an infection of the umbilical cord at birth. That’s really common. What was going on between that woman and Tupac? You mean Lele, the white girl? She was working for a humanitarian organization. The two brothers both had a crush on her. Tupac and her eventually became a couple for a short time. It’s kind of weird saying this, but in the pictures, it looks like she’s kind of swept up in the world there. Is that corny? Do you feel like that happened to you guys? Maybe. I don’t know. At one point Milos decided to stop filming and instead started carrying a gun alongside the people we met. It took a lot of persuasion to make him understand that he would just be doing them a disservice. I think that the biggest thing we could do for the Haitian slums was to tell its story, and we were able to do that. Why did the two brothers die if the fighting was over? They survived the revolution, and the truce with the rebels lasted. But then… I guess you could say promises were broken, and they died under the hands of the new powers that be. Tupac and Billy were fundamentally different in one major way: One of them believed in the president and wanted to stay and fight, and the other one just wanted to get out of there and be a rapper. Did you know that Wyclef Jean is the only Haitian to have ever made it out and become famous? He was this kid Tupac’s hero, and Tupac felt that if he could just get Wyclef to hear his music, he’d be able get out of the ghetto. And I keep thinking about how he almost made it. He was going to make it. But then he went back into the ghetto one last time. He and his brother had reconciled after a shootout they’d had. Then his brother had gotten in trouble so Tupac went back into the slums to save him, and he was killed. INTERVIEWED BY VICE STAFF