Fugees' Pras on Sweet Micky for President Movie: "My Way of Being a Revolutionary"
Pras, campaigning to get former kompa star Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly elected president of Haiti.
Sweet Micky for President may be among the greatest documentaries of all time.
The movie follows Pras from the Fugees as he formulates the idea to run Haiti's one-man version of 2 Live Crew as a candidate for president, and wins.
Throughout, Pras' old bandmate Wyclef steps up as the opposition, and Ben Stiller, Sean Penn, and Bill Clinton join the fray. Absurd as it may seem, this is all true, and the film tells a dramatic, hilarious, and incredible story that is inspiring and revolutionary.
Here's what Pras Michel had to say about the youth of Haiti, threatening to burn the country down, and getting kicked off the campaign.
New Times: Tell the people how you came up with this?
Basically, I wanted to do something for Haiti right after the earthquake and wasn't quite sure what the story was going to be, but it wasn't feasible. There was too much going on. Then I decided I wanted to make a change and that change was endorsing Michel Martelly as a presidential candidate and that's kinda what happened.
Did you think then that you would win?
I believed he was gonna win. If I didn't think so, I wouldn't have done it. As crazy as it sounds, there wasn't a doubt in my mind. I believed in the timing, in who he was. I mean, look, it wouldn't have happened at any other moment. I understood that. But especially in American history, a dramatic change always happens when a country's back is against the wall. So I gambled on Haiti, feeling we have nothing to lose. We goin' all in. I just took that gamble, man, and went all the way with it.
Can you explain the cultural embargo of the world against Haiti?
I don't know all the details, but Haiti is the world's first black republic. Slavery didn't end in America until 61 years after that. America and the Western world didn't want to promote that beacon of hope to the slaves they had. So it was a movement to keep Haiti in the shadows.
Why was it important to show the natural beauty of the island?
The irony is that Haiti is one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean, but because it's so disruptive, people don't get to see that side of it. We're giving people a perspective they're not accustomed to seeing. We did aerial shots of the Citadelle, which is the largest fortress in the Western hemisphere and the beauty was very strong there. That's the reality.
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Michel Martelly and his campaign slogan "Tèt Kale," meaning shaved head but also all the way."
There's a point in the movie when you call for revolution and say that if Sweet Micky doesn't get his fair shot, you will be the first one burning everything down.
That was something I said in the heat of the moment. I'm not really gonna burn anything down. I was just being emotional, talking amongst friends. I didn't realize I was being filmed. But I wanted to keep that authenticity for the film. It's like, they can't take this away from us. And we're gonna fight until the end. You gotta remember, man, Haitians don't have the same luxuries as the Western world. For us, politics is everything. When we have no food, no clothes, all we have is our right to vote, and we always want to make sure our vote is being respected.
Did you ever consider asking Lauryn Hill to get involved?
Umm, no. It wasn't her fight. Not really.
What was the highest point for you in filming the movie?
My horse won. The horse I betted on won. Otherwise, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
What was your lowest point?
The lowest point was when I got kicked off the campaign. I was like, "Wow, politics, it's dirty, man." That was tough to deal with.
Is there racism in Haitian politics?
Yeah, there's racism in everything. Especially in Haiti. Especially in third-world countries. They're divided by class, and class is a form of racism because class is backed by economics and color. In Haiti, dark-skinned people deliberately decided not to speak French. Where for fair-skinned Haitians that's a sign of prestige and honor. They look down upon those who don't speak it. There's a clash right there.
What was the role of Miami and the Haitian diaspora in the making of the movie?
The diaspora had a very important role. they're the only reason Michel got in. His campaign started here. Without that, nobody would have taken him seriously. They started the whole groundswell.
What do you think is the historic significance of this movie?
To me, this is one of the most important black films of the last half century. This movie can help a whole generation, and inspire them to realize how powerful and beautiful our country is and to see how people are receiving us outside of our culture. That's a form of acceptance, like, "Wow, they love our culture." We have a very rich culture. People don't know our story. They don't know we were instrumental in the Louisiana Purchase. They don't know that Alexandre Dumas, the author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, was of Haitian descent. They don't know that the city of Chicago was founded by Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a Haitian. They don't know that Haitians fought the British in the American Revolution at the Siege of Savannah. There are people in New Orleans right now, living the Kreyol culture that don't know it's from us. They don't know that former U.S. President Roosevelt rode in a car with the President of Haiti. They don't know that Haiti declared war on Hitler. They don't know that Haiti gave Israel its last vote in the United Nations for them to be recognized as a state. So you go back to the movie and that's what's going to initiate the dialogue and inspire a generation to keep putting the story out. All the people receiving the movie with enthusiasm is inspiring. That's my way of being a revolutionary. That's my platform and medium that made me successful. My people's story.
What do you think of Miami Dade College's Miami International Film Festival?
It's incredible. Miami has a big diaspora population and we're honored to be accepted there. Haiti truly embodies the belief that anything is possible. After the earthquake, we said, "We gonna put a man who used to wear diapers on stage as leader of our country." Most people would be drowning in sorrows, but we celebrated and danced and partied like, "Look, this is for the ones that lost their lives. We with you." That's the beauty of Haiti and Haitians.
How do you say, "Fuck these fake-ass fucking bullshit politicians" in Kreyol?
They know who they are. I may not agree with some of their policies and philosophies, but I still respect them enough as our leaders not to wild out on them like that. To me, they're dinosaurs about to be extinct. I'm focused on this generation. 65 percent of Haitians are 25 or younger. We've got a rich culture and history, and that's what this is about, to build on that.
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Sweet Micky for President. Directed by Ben Patterson. Screening as part of Miami Dade College's Miami International Film Festival 2015. 9:30 p.m. Friday, March 13. O Cinema Miami Beach, 500 71st St., Miami Beach; 305-571-7790; o-cinema.org. Tickets cost $13 via miamiff-tickets.com.
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