Doc Blog


Ghosts of Cite Soleil (right) didn´t have months or years of pre-production behind it when we started shooting. There was no production company. There was no extensive preparing for the great mission an undertaking like this film could be. There was the prepared desire to do a certain kind of film in the right setting and there was the sudden unraveling of historic events in Haiti that invited filming and immediate action. There was a clear dramatic line of events waiting to happen.  And then there was the invaluable access to the slums of Haiti through co-director Milos Loncarevic and Eleonore Senlis, a French relief worker.

The shooting of the film was financed on loans from my bank and excessive swiping of the credit card. I borrowed an Aaton Minima that’s easy to run around with shooting riots and so on, and some late date film stock from a very open minded and friendly camera rental company. I had three dv-cameras myself and the basic sound gear and that was it.

Milos Loncarevic, grew up in Belgrade during the war so fear is not really in his vocabulary. He has a way of just being there. And he was very much present in the slum taking hundreds of still-photos that clearly defined his talent. He had only recently tried his hands on an older video camera and needed just a little coaching and a newer camera before he could transplant his talent in capturing intense situations and we were on our way.

As the story progressed and I knew what we had and what we didn´t have I brought in Frederik Jacobi as the third cinematographer besides Milos and myself to satisfy the need for a different feel in some of the material. A special texture that would take our heavy load of material one step further. A step further towards the cinematic storytelling I wanted to achieve with this film. I knew Frederik Jacobi in advance as a rock-steady cinematographer capable of shooting eerily beautiful shots under very difficult circumstances. Milos and I have our excuses for exposing us to the dangers of Haiti at the time, but for Frederik it was a leap of faith on the promise of little-to-no salary. Luckily he didn´t hesitate and even managed to hustle an old old Aaton 16 for him to shoot on and some more stock.

 In my world there is almost nothing you can´t do in post as far as the look and feel goes – provided the material is there. I am atuned to the world of manipulating digital images. Color grading some here, tweaking something there, reframing something here to make it match a cut. I want complete control over this process and insist on doing it in the editing. Luckily my editor Adam Nielsen is a virtuoso in these matters and every bit as much a control freak as me, so that was no problem. No scenes are edited into the film without prior grading.  All the film stock is transferred to dv tapes and loaded together with all the dv footage and it will never see film again. That’s the way we want it. Leave nothing to chance!

 When I hand the film to the lab on a hard disk it is color graded and run through magic bullet and frame by frame a finished film. I love the capable people at the lab with their color correctors and so on, but I need to know how the film looks while I edit. The tones of the shots have help me dictate the feeling and I can´t edit a film without knowing as we move along how it feels. Not that this process in any way takes the load of the skilled people at the lab – on the contrary – I can´t imagine anything more stressing than having to satisfy a nit-picking director who has the look of the film already settled wanting nothing less on film than what was handed to the lab....only better. Every step of the way making the film one better. Persuading people with sheer enthusiasm to stay after hours striving for perfection in telling a deep and important story.

Asger, this blog entry is from six months ago, so I dont know if you'l get to read this. I have just seen the amazing film... i've never seen a production like it. how amazing it must be to start out with the intention of making a documentary and ending up with a narrative, a movie! it was unbelievable. the night of the wake, the basketball game, the night when 2pac left his daughter, and the phone conversation/rap with wyclef jean just blew me away. you captured something the history books can only vaguely allude to , and to which the international community only ever pays lip service. It was real life. congratulations.
Comment By claire At 24/03/2021 6:54 PM
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