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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Social Media Account Writers

£12000 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This social media management pr...

Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor (Magazine Publishing) - Wimbledon - £23-26K

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor - Wimbledon...

Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publishing) - Wimbledon - £26-30K

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publish...

Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference