Controversial Vice

A documentary called The Vice Guide to Travel – Liberia, came out online last week. Many bloggers and observers reacted to the documentary. Here’s my bit about it.

So I watched it last week. Also watched the other Vice documentaries. I saw the one about North Korea, another one about the favelas in Brazil, and a third about Eastern Congo. Not the nicest places around, right ? They weren’t really  nice documentaries, National Geographic-style.

They’re more like the documentaries you see at 1AM on the cheap cable channels. Like those documentaries on the gangs, or the special police units. Some really grimey stuff. The one about Liberia focus on the after-war in the West African country, former rebels… The grave issues of extreme poverty, lack of hygiene, criminality, sexual violence and cannibalism are discussed.

You can find some parts of the debate here, after the Huffington Post article about the documentary. Most people against it claim that it goes way to far (beyond reality?) just to offer “shocking content”. “Conflict Porn”, I quote.

Really, as I said, I wasn’t expecting to see a nice documentary about how people are struggling today to build a strong and peaceful Liberia. It was as I was expecting, a documentary about the worst aspects of the war-torn country. I mean, it’s a really cheap feature about the Vice in Liberia, I don’t think it claims/should be taken for anything more than that. These documentaries exist about every place in the world, from New York to Moscow. And it doesn’t give a very pretty image of any of them.

The one problem I have with it is the “generalization” of facts he saw in the worst slums of the country or with former rebels to all Liberians (it actually comes more from his interview than from the feature). It seems to me that he talks about cannibalism, as if he thinks that it’s a norm in the country. Which is quite ignorant. To keep it short, I’m okay with the documentary discussing some terrifying parts and picturing a dark story, but I don’t condone the talk in the article about cannibalism as being usual (normal?) in the country.

However, the underlying problem here seems to be the presence of the country in the media. It’s a damn shame we hear so much more about the atrocities, and the civil war than about the reconstruction of the country. Only a few things came out about the country last year, and most were about child soldiers, violence, or weapon trafficking.

The country is living again, and the future can be bright. Maybe more features about it should be produced.

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