Michel Martelly, known as “Sweet Micky” to his fans, was once considered the Michael Jackson of Haitian music. His catchy songs, charming persona and outrageous stage antics made him one of Haiti’s most beloved artists in the 90s. Though his music often featured politically charged lyrics, the last thing his loyal fans ever expect was to see Martelly’s name on a presidential ballot. However, that is exactly what occurred in 2010 when Martelly – endorsed by fellow musician Pras Michel best known for being a member of the multi-platinum rap group Fugees – threw his hat into what was only the third democratic election in Haiti’s history.
Ben Patterson’s entertaining documentary Sweet Micky for President, charts Martelly’s journey from the moment he announced he was running. Playing out like an underdog sports film, complete with heroes, villains, and unexpected twists, the film expertly captures a political landscape facing an uncertain future.
Ravaged by the January 12, 2010 earthquake, a catastrophe that demolished ninety percent of the capital city and left 2.3 million people displaced, the Haitian people were in need of hope and change. Plagued by a history of political corruption, military coups and civilian abuse, Haiti has had it fair share of misery. Outgoing president René Préval was supposed to usher Haiti out from under the boot of corruption that the likes of François ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier, Jean-Claude “Bébé Doc” Duvalier, and Jean-Bertrand Aristide had used to keep the citizens down. However, even Préval was not able to resist the seductive allure of power as his term in office became mired in controversy.
Despite facing criticism from those refusing to see him as anything other than his provocative Sweet Micky persona, Martelly came out of the gate riding a wave of popularity. However, his campaign hits a snag when fellow musician Wyclef Jean – Pras Michel’s former Fugees bandmate – decided to enter the race as well. Patterson’s does a good job of navigating the various moving piece on the election’s chessboard. He provides insight into the scandal plagued two stage voting process, as well as the ways in which actor Sean Penn helped to raise awareness of Martelly’s plight to Hollywood A-listers like Ben Stiller. The latter of which leads to some riveting drama between former friends Wyclef and Pras as egos and past history collide.
Sweet Micky for President is a film that will be most riveting for those who are not well versed in Haiti’s political climate. Those familiar with the outcome may not find too many new revelations in the film. Regardless of the angle viewers approach the film, it is hard not to be swept away by the energy, charm and sobering truth that Sweet Micky for President provides. Regardless of change at the top, it will take several years before the ingrained ideology of deceit is fully uprooted from Haiti’s political landscape. Sweet Micky for President, is a reminder that Haiti still has a long way to go before it can truly achieve the harmony it so desperately seeks and deserves.
Wednesday, April 29, 1:00 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Sunday, May 3, 5:30 PM, Revue Cinema
Tickets can be purchased at the Hot Docs website.