THE SHORT TAKE: Interview with actor/producer PRAS MICHEL
Pras Michel, producer of "Sweet Mickey for President".

THE SHORT TAKE: Interview with actor/producer PRAS MICHEL

With the upcoming release of the blazing documentary Sweet Mickey for President, I spoke with the film’s producer, actor and musician Pras Michel (the Fugees), about his new film which focuses on Pras’s return to Haiti after the disastrous earthquake in 2010, where he sets up a campaign with the controversial Haiti musician Michel Martelly, aka Sweet Mickey, to run for president, in a means to save the corrupted country.

So when you initially returned to Haiti after the earthquake happened, and after being away from there for some time, what was your reaction when first seeing it again after something so devastating and destructive? 

PRAS: I hadn’t been to Haiti in a while, so obviously after the earthquake, it really led me to feel that I had to do something. So that’s when I began to conjure up this idea of Michel Martelly, aka Sweet Mickey, to run for president of Haiti.

 So once you had that connection, you just felt like you could go to the next step, and actually start an election process to try and reshape Haiti?

PRAS: Yeah, it kind of all happened organically. I was speaking to my director, Ben Patterson, he just happened to be at the right place at the right time. So he proceeded to film everything, and then at the end of the campaign, he came to me and showed me some footage, and we just decided – okay, let’s make something out of this.

Since you have musicians running for president in this film, would you say that the presidential election currently going on in the U.S., with celebs like Donald Trump running and Kanye West claiming to run in 2020, is similar to this one in that aspect?

PRAS: You know what, they are both parallel. Because if you look at it, Donald Trump, he almost looks like he took a page from my playbook.

It’s just like these certain public figures, who have a major influence on people, feel like they have every reason to run because so. But what is the grounds of when you should run, and what makes a huge public figure like musician Sweet Mickey, adequate enough that makes them a worthy candidate, other then their known voice?

PRAS: Well, I think if you really have the right heart, in the right place. Michel is a bit different, I think if I was to go back, would I do it again, yes I would, but I would do it a bit differently. But it can’t just be about that you wanna run because you’re popular, or you feel like you have access to resources. It has to be that you really want to make a change, but you also have to understand, the challenges that come with wanting to make that change, especially in the political system. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an American political system, it can be any political system, because politics can be very hard, if you want to get people to coincide with your beliefs, and what you want to do.

With the campaigns depicted in this film, compared to let’s say…the GOP campaigns currently going on in the U.S., the candidates that are running in Haiti certainly make their campaigns seem more structural.

PRAS: Yeah, I mean, when you look at these GOP debates, it’s horrible, they just want to knock each other down…but what are your plans? How do you see yourself changing the country? It’s funny, because a couple of years ago, somebody was making fun of the whole Haitian process, saying – OH, you guys have thirty candidates. Well the republicans have twenty-five! So what’s the difference? And ten of them are still liable right? So it seems that this a global-epidemic going on with these politicians!

Right, and they’re all thinking it’s their destiny to run, even if they don’t even have the preparedness for something like that. 

PRAS: Right. And I’m going to tell you the sad thing about it, at least Sweet Mickey has an excuse, that he’s a musician, and he’s never been in politics before. Okay, cool. But when you look at the GOP debate, the people that are standing on that stage, all of them I consider the “creme da la creme” of our society, one was a CEO of HP, two or three of them are governors, or ex-governors of big states, one is a billionaire, the other person is a senator, or a congressman. So they are the creme da la creme, but when you hear the things that comes out of their mouths, you think to yourself – What?!

When watching this documentary, it’s good to see people saying exactly what needs to be said, and not making up excuses by being honest to the fact that they are musicians, not politicians. They just tell it like it is.

PRAS: Obviously it’s a very entertaining documentary, but I think the lesson to be learned from this, is that we have to stop neglecting the people, that are shouting on the other side of the room. People can be like – Ah, who cares about them? Well, those people might fuck around, and then elect somebody like Trump to run for office. Just because. You don’t have to necessarily believe in them, but at least address their concerns. Like, there’s a reason why people are acting the way, and feeling the way that they feel. So you got to at least pay attention, and try to address the situation. I have so many friends saying – Ah politics, forget about that, people that vote for Trump are crazy. No they’re not crazy, they’re still Americans, and they can vote. And they feel a certain way about something right now, and I think with Sweet Mickey, that’s what happened. Haiti felt like the status-quot for thirty years hasn’t done anything for us. So you know what? They didn’t vote for Mickey because they thought he was going to be Winston Churchill. They voted him to send a message, like – We Don’t Give A Fuck. People don’t want to listen to us, then we’re going to show you. We don’t care. I think that’s where people are at right now. We started to see this about five years ago. You had the protest in Iran, you had the protest in Hong Kong. We’re starting to see this movement. You know, in Ireland, it was a musician that became president. And in some country in South America just a few weeks ago, a comedian became president! You see people making these drastic changes, because what we are use to us not working. Something’s going to have to give, at some point.

So you live in New York. What was your thoughts on Quentin Tarantino’s police brutality protest, and all of the controversy that is surrounding it?

PRAS: First of all, I love Quentin Tarantino. I think that this whole thing is bullshit. Tarantino obviously doesn’t believe that all cops are murderers, that’s not what I got out of it. He’s saying the one that actually murdered. I don’t understand these cops, one can do something fucking bad, and then they all band together, and protect the bad apple, and you can’t do that. You got to hold these people responsible. I have family who are police officers, I have friends, so it’s not like I’m foreign to it. But, you got to call a spade a spade. So what they’re doing, they just creating theatrics, to distract us from what the real issues are. I’m with Quentin Tarantino a hundred percent.

So in comparison to the beginning, when you started production on Sweet Mickey, has anything changed in Haiti since you finished filming?

PRAS: I mean, there’s been some progress. I wouldn’t necessarily say anything drastic has changed, and it’s unfortunate. But you know, I think we’re gonna have to wait till the end of December, to see what really has changed. There’s been an election two weeks ago, and there’s a runoff going on. How the people accept that, and what happens with that, is going to be a big factor on what happens to Haiti. The people, if they’re going to lay down and take it, that’s one thing. But I don’t think they are.




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