The Fugees' Pras Michel Produces New Documentary About Haitian Election

Photo by Steve Rannie
"You don't even have to care about Haiti to love this movie. It connects with any individual," Michel told ESSENCE.

Pras Michel is back in the spotlight moving to an entirely different beat. His fans might be surprised to know that in 2010 the Brooklyn-born recording artist transformed his friend, an outlandish pop singer widely known in Haiti as Sweet Micky, into a candidate for President … and he won! Pras and Michel Martelly had zero political experience but that didn’t seem to matter in the wake of the devastating 2010 earthquake that reduced Haiti to rubble. With cameras rolling every step of the way, Pras reveals how he pulled off the political coup of a lifetime in his exciting new film “Sweet Micky For President.”

"This guy, who wore diapers, ran for president,” Pras joked, “but it goes to show you once again when people want their voices to be heard they will stop at nothing." 

Pras is a true legend in hip hop. As founder of The Fugees, the two-time Grammy Award winning rapper helped to boost rap into the stratosphere alongside Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean. Their group’s seminal 1996 album “The Score” went multiplatinum and made the recording artists household names but the trio quickly disbanded and went their separate ways.  The film demonstrates how Pras used his connections as a Hip Hop superstar to score big points with the downtrodden in his ancestors’ homeland.

“He [Martelly] was speaking to a bunch of people who wanted to be heard,” Pras explained. “There’s a silent majority out there… and the people were disenfranchised so they said we’re gonna vote this clown into office.”

A clown, indeed. A quick YouTube search of Sweet Micky reveals how the provocative singer, who is sometimes compared to Michael Jackson, wore diapers and other suggestive outfits to draw attention to his electrifying stage performance. Pras has said that he was unaware of Martelly’s antics when he enlisted the entertainer to run for President, yet the film illustrates how the rapper knew exactly how to exploit Martelly’s celebrity status into victory.

“If you wrote a movie about this people would be like – cool movie but it could never really happen like that in real life – but it happened!” Pras deadpanned.

The fast paced film features Pras in surreal moments where the Fugees star almost can’t believe that Sweet Micky is being taken seriously. The documentary shifts into high gear when fellow Fugee Wyclef Jean abruptly enters the race generating international headlines and turning the Haitian election into a full-blown circus. Pras says his allegiance to Martelly never wavered despite his longtime friendship with Wyclef Jean.

"I didn't feel like he [Wyclef] was the right candidate as much as I obviously I love him but I didn't feel like he was the right candidate,” Pras admitted. “So for me if it was saving 15 million lives in Haiti or losing one friend – then it’s worth it. Rather than gain one friend and lose 15 million lives.” 

There’s never a dull moment in Sweet Micky for President and it’s absolutely fascinating to see how both Pras and Michel Martelly evolve into a force to be reckoned with in a nation still reeling from a natural disaster.  After Wyclef Jean dropped out because of a residency requirement [he lived in New Jersey], Martelly was in a strong position to cruise to the National Palace in 2011. No more diapers, no more clowning; by the end of the film President Michel Martelly successfully erases his image as a cartoon character and embraces the role of His Excellency: The 56th President of the first black republic in the world.

Ironically, or perhaps not, the film's release coincides with renewed political turmoil and unrest as Haitians seek to elect a new president now that Martelly's five year term is up and he's not running for reelection.   Many Haitians are said to be bitter that President Martelly did not live up to their expectations and they are ready for a new leader. Pras also admits that President Martelly let him down.

“Obviously, I hoped that he would have done more… more comprehensive healthcare, education, jobs … but it was peaceful – they allowed him to stay in office for his whole term. That’s progress in itself.” Pras said.

Sweet Micky for President is a darling at film festivals coast to coast: From Hot Docs to The Los Angeles Film Festival, it’s a hit with moviegoers.  The rapper turned filmmaker says Sweet Micky for President is a crowning achievement in more ways than anyone can imagine. 

"If this guy can do what he's done and become president then anything is possible,” Pras said. “You don't have to know about Haiti, you don't even have to care about Haiti to love this movie - it connects with any individual.”

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