'Sweet Micky for President': Slamdance Review

Courtesy of Slamdance Film Festival
Rocking the vote, Haitian style.   

This documentary on Haiti’s 2010 presidential election benefits from superior access to the candidates and their supporters

When it comes to getting out the vote, music can make all the difference in an electoral campaign, as many a politician has previously discovered. In the 2010 Haitian presidential election, it was professional musicians who made the difference, however. In an historic contest for the nation’s presidency, former Fugee’s rapper Pras Michel endorsed musician and candidate Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, actively backing him throughout his eventful campaign. Filmmaker Ben Patterson captures the candidate and his supporters in close-up for his dynamic debut feature, which is likely to attract further attention from fests and broadcast outlets alike after winning the Slamdance feature documentary jury and audience awards.

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti drew substantial international aid to the country, as well as increased attention for the scheduled presidential election to replace outgoing chief executive Rene Preval after two terms in the office. Preval was only Haiti’s second democratically elected president, although his regime was beset by allegations of corruption, much like that of predecessor Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was deposed in a 2004 military coup.

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In the run-up to the 2010 election, Haiti’s tumultuous history since independence in 1804 leads many to question whether the country possesses the social stability for a successful transfer of power to a new administration. After the earthquake re-shapes the political landscape, however, dozens of candidates emerge to challenge Preval’s hand-picked successor. A second-generation Haitian-American, Pras Michel endorses Martelly when he decides to run, believing that his political inexperience will be outweighed by his recogniziblity as one of Haiti’s top musical talents. Except that Martelly isn’t necessarily well-known for the right reasons, since he’s notorious for his sexually provocative onstage persona, but his reputation doesn’t seem to faze potential voters, who enthusiastically turn out for his electoral rallies.

Martelly’s campaign gets knocked sideways, however, when Pras Michel’s former bandmate Wyclef Jean enters the race with substantially more resources and a higher profile. With two well-known musicians running for president, it’s pretty clear that one is going to be forced to drop out prior to the expected runoff and it’s up to Michel and Martelly to ensure that he’s the candidate to survive.

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While the outcome of the election will be well-known to those who follow developments in Haiti, Martelly initially comes across like some unruly combination of holy buffoon and emerging statesman, gradually assuming more gravitas as his influence grows, as well as the roster of his actual and implied supporters, who include Sean Penn and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Although Pras Michel gets the most camera-time, his influence waxes and wanes as the political novice attempts to help his candidate weather a storm of scrutiny and occasional controversy.

Equally the novice, Patterson makes the most of his access to the two musicians, shooting on the run as often as sitting down for interviews with key participants in the presidential contest. The editorial package adeptly assembled by Wyatt Rogowski includes archival stills and newsreel along with Patterson’s footage, as well as brief animated sequences energetically depicting key moments in Haitian history.

Production company: A Prasperity Group Production

Director: Ben Patterson

Screenwriter: Pras Michel

Producers: Pras Michel, Karyn Rachtman, Ben Patterson

Executive Producers: Marlon Wayans, Rick Alvarez, Steve Harris, Bryn

Mooser, Oliver Luckett

Directors of photography:Ben Patterson, Josh Hyde, Wyatt Rogowski

Editor: Wyatt Rogowski

Music: Paul Brill

Sales: Something Kreative

 

No rating, 95 minutes

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