Imagine if Lil’ Wayne ran for president of the United States. Such was the mission of Haitian star turned candidate Michel Martelly. “Sweet Micky for President” manages to successfully portray the raunchy pop star’s tumultuous campaign as he attempts to go from the bad boy of Haitian music to Head of State.With a few quick strokes, the film lays out Haiti’s history from the first Black independent nation through its succession of coups d’etat, tonton makouts and Tit Anyen and near constant political instability ending with the devastating earthquake of 2010, one of the worst natural disasters known to mankind. Images of Haitians haggardly running through the streets of Port-au-Prince frame Haiti as a nation in shambles.
With this apocalyptic backdrop, enters Michel Martelly AKA Sweet Micky, who at the suggestion of Pras Michel (formerly of the Fugees) decides to run for president. There is no plan, no roadmap, no campaign manager, just two guys who think this is a brilliant idea. Only one thing is made clear at the outset, Martelly loves his country and he has been a fierce critic of Haitian presidents throughout his career as a musician.
“Sweet Micky for President” then artfully takes us through a roller coaster ride, navigating the ups and downs of a chaotic campaign. To say Martelly was unprepared is an understatement. He and his camp were clueless and you get the feeling that they never expected the campaign to pick up steam. So when it does, panic ensues.
“Sweet Micky for President” is an underdog story. It’s like the little league team composed of misfits, destined to lose. At times euphoric, the film makes you want to root for Martelly. He must overcome a parade of political players, including the return of popular former president Aristide. Other notable candidates include Wyclef Jean with seemingly unlimited resources and clout; Mirlande Manigat with her 30+ years of political experience and Jude Celestin who was sitting president Preval’s son-in-law. At one point Martelly appears devastatingly unprepared as he explains that his background as a band leader qualifies him to lead Haiti. You’d almost feel sorry for him if the stakes weren’t so high.
The film tellingly reveals the reality of America’s influence on Haitian politics. One particularly revealing scene shows what can only be called a summit in the U.S. between Pras, Martelly, Wyclef and Sean Penn, where Penn says to Wyclef: “well, you had your ideas [about the elections] and we had ours.” In the next shot, Pras narrates that Hillary Clinton flew to Haiti to tell the sitting president how this is supposed to go down. Then miraculously, the second round of the elections includes Martelly, who had been previously excluded in the first round results.
One minor distraction was the various talking heads that put in their two cents. Some were necessary, others were superfluous and simply took away from the story. Also, if you’re looking for a balanced view of the Haitian elections, this isn’t it. The story is told through Pras and Martelly’s POV. In fact, Pras narrates the story himself. Finally, there are some “facts” that are inaccurate. For instance, Pras suggesting that Wyclef introduced Range Rovers to Haiti or that no one knew Martelly spoke French before the elections. Those are minor and don’t take away from a truly engaging documentary, regardless of where you fall on the Haitian political spectrum.
“Sweet Micky for President” picked up 2 top honors at the 21st annual Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, UT last weekend: the audience and the jury prize for best documentary.