Inside VICE magazine's alternative travel guides

Since 2007 the VICE travel guides have brought us some of the most unusual travel films around: From Beirut to Bulgaria, Chernobyl to Congo the guides have taken the viewer on journeys to surreal and often dangerous places.

The latest documentary is the The Vice Guide to Liberia, without doubt the most controversial instalment yet. We talk to Andy Capper, editor of VICE UK about what was involved and what comes next for the series.



Tell us about the VICE travel guides. How did you come up with the idea for them?

VICE used to have a regular section on travel. The travel guides started along the same lines as the other life guides. We put some of the older films on the Vice Guide to Travel DVD and then launched a website called VBS TV with filmmaker Spike Jonze as creative director. We wanted to go some different places. They aren’t meant to be like Time Out guides.

How long does it take research, prepare, film and produce your documentaries?

Not long. We filmed in Liberia in June and released it six months later but we had to spend a lot of time doing all the bureaucratic stuff and lobbying before we went.



Did you go with any preconceptions? Were they accurate?

We’d wondered about how the people could have done all these terrible things to each other during the civil wars. We’d heard that the situation had started changing for the better in Liberia since the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf but we wanted to go beyond the press releases and actually speak to people on the ground.



Given the security situation in Liberia what precautions did you take to protect yourselves?

We worked with local fixers. Everywhere we went we attracted attention particularly when people saw our cameras. We’d start filming and then all of a sudden there’d be forty or fifty kids all around us. We’d often get mobbed by people us all asking for money.



What do you say to the critics of the VICE travel guides who claim that the documentaries are overly sensationalized?

They aren’t. Its one guy with one camera. We report it as we see it. We are just trying to show people what’s happening, to report the news. Perhaps they don’t like what they see.



For part of the time your guide was Joshua Blahyi (aka General Buttnaked) a former cannibal warlord responsible for the deaths of over 20,000 civilians. Did you have reservations about working with him?

As much as any sane person I suppose. We had a strange relationship. We were trying to understand how this man could have done what he did but we were also interested in how he had changed. We were also interested to understand how they (the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission) had just let him walk free after the war. Once you look as his upbringing as a priest in the Krahn tribe it’s hard to judge him since he was involved in these practices from such an early age. As Shane Smith said on the film it felt very surreal after spending so much time with him, a bit like being on acid. Its strange to think that a few years ago this guy was eating babies and now he wants to be our friend. It’s impossible to make judgements about Joshua based on our own values.

I thought to myself if it all goes to hell again in Liberia would he come back as General Buttnaked or would he come back as Joshua Blayhi? One day we went to eat ribs with him. It brought him back bad memories.



How is Joshua Blayhi supported?

Joshua is supported by his friends and his supporters in the evangelical Christian community. They like to think of him as Saul on the Road to Damascus. He represents all the best Christian stories, how he has managed to deal with his past, live that down and be a good guy. As he says for him ‘it used to be the blood of humans and now it’s the blood of Jesus’. He is no Vicar of Dibley.



What other documentaries do you have in the pipeline?

We are focusing on the Rule Britannia series at the moment. Swansea Love Story is out now as is Blackpool: Vegas of the North. We’ve got three more planned in the next six months. We are also working on a partnership with CNN.

To watch the VICE travel guide series, click here

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Insight Analyst Vacancy - Leading Marketing Agency

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency have won a fe...

Account Manager, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent Uncapped Commission Structure: ...

Sales Executive, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Charter Selection: This exciting entertainment comp...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star