Documental 13: Vice Documentaries (Part 1)

Posted on May 15, 2013

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Vice have some bloody glorious documentaries. Taking a way more straight and to the point stance on things, they cover everything from the secretive state of North Korea to sewer dwellers in Colombia to LSD bunkers and everything dark in between. There is little faffing around, and whilst there is a definite ‘cooler than thou’ element to some of the presenters rendering them practically unlikeable, more often than not these things hit the bullseye. The night shifts have started here in Belgrade, so I’m trying to watch as many of them as possible. Here’s the first bunch.

Death of the American Hobo
To me, a hobo is a homeless bloke. I guess that this is where the term originated from, but it turns out a hobo is someone who back in the day would jump freight trains from town to town in order to find work. This documentary saw a small group of chaps attempt to travel from California to Iowa in this manner, in order to attend a Hobo Convention. The process of jumping trains actually looks really exciting, I’d quite like to try it one day. The stretches they spend on the train also show what are truly the best parts of travelling, that being the genuine freedom and appreciation of your surroundings. Many times it seems very tense and nervous however, which maybe adds to the disappointment of finding the convention to be nothing more than a tourist attraction, as opposed to a genuine vagabond celebration. It is all an adventure, it isn’t real life.

Prostitutes of God
I’m very interested in the ethics of prostitution to be honest. I think its a very sharp double edged sword, and of course all depends on the individual who is selling their body, on how they ended up in the profession and how they are treated. This documentary investigates an old Hindu tradition of prostituting pre-pubescent girls, known as Devadasi. They essentially are sold off to temples to be sexual slaves. Originally the Devadasi had very high social status. Over the centuries however, the link to the temple and the social status diminished, leaving the Devadasi now as basic street prostitutes. The Vice crew visits a red light district in Sangri, Maharastra, and all seems well, okay. No one is ashamed of being a devadasi. The vast majority of Devadasi are forced into it by their parents, and often become the only money earners for their families. Desperate for a male child, parents would have no ethical problem with sending their daughter off to prostitute herself, a cynical attempt by parents to cash in on their disappointment. A cynical attempt that has led to HIV numbers going through the roof, mostly due to drunk truckers. So make no bones about it, this is religion condoning child prostitution.

Westminster Dog Show on Acid
This short video followed Brayden Olsen, as he wandered around the biggest dog show in the world. Oh, whilst he is tripping balls on acid. It’s only 10 minutes or so long, but it is a rather enjoyable watch the whole time. I used to get drunk at university and watch Crufts, so I can imagine that tripping at a dog show is a very good way to experience the drug, and for that matter the dog show. Because dog shows are horrifically ridiculous. I mean, come on, dogs in nappies? Stupid. There is never a way that won’t be stupid. Brayden is funny and engaging throughout, particularly when giving interviews. The walk out scene at the end is pretty funny too.

40 Years of Complete Isolation
Faustino Barrientos has lived alone in Patagonia, for over 40 years. The nearest people are 25 miles away from him. He is an immensely isolated chap. Rumours abound in the town over surrounding his moods, his behaviour and his tendency to attempt to murder his nephew. So, as Vice head out to meet him, there is a lot of mystery surrounding this 81 year old man. What are they going to find? Will he attempt to kill them for trespassing onto his land? Well, no. What they find is a surprisingly jolly, happy and strangely social man. He also has a lodger, and all manner of tools,, so immediately doubt starts to creep in about just how isolated he is exactly. Still, as they trek out to the Green Lake, any doubt is pushed to the back of the mind as you take in just how stunning Chile looks, and admire how this guy has lived purely off the land for so long. Good work chap.

Hunting the Radioactive Beasts of Chernobyl
Finally, Shane Smith goes to Chernobyl and gets absolutely blasted, bribes his way to machine guns and attempts to hunt down some radioactive wild boar. Underneath the alcohol and the guns is probably the biggest human tragedy of the last 30 years. A very poingnat quote summed it up for me. ‘There is no fear of death because eveything is death’. Very sad.

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Posted in: Documental, Travel