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The VICE Guide to Liberia

January 21, 2010

VICE approaches most subjects with an archly ironic, cynical eye.  That doesn’t tend to work when covering sincerely tragic subjects like child soldiers, rape, and abject poverty.  The VICE Guide to Liberia is a documentary film project that follows VICE’s founder as he visits Liberia for the first time. Although the segments hews to the all-too-familiar storyline of a bewildered white guy overwhelmed by the heat, poverty, and chaos of Africa, I was surprised at their honest depiction of what life is like for most Liberians.

From what I’ve watched so far, there’s no obvious exaggeration of the situation they encountered. In Liberia, the truth is horrible enough. I’ve personally been to several of the locations visited, including the slums and the graveyard where people lived during the war. The first segments have also shown some of the only footage I’ve seen of the civil wars of the last twenty years.  In later segments, they will be looking into the role of the UN in post-war Liberia, and the lack of impact that massive international investment has had on the average Liberian.

Since my trip to Liberia in October, I’ve been thinking a lot about the inadequacy of the international development and humanitarian aid industry when faced with the task of rehabilitating a broken country. Present-day Liberia seems trapped at the intersection of profound domestic social dysfunction and the ambiguous motivations of the international community.

If you have a strong stomach, the first three parts of VICE’s ongoing eight-part series on Liberia can be watched on their website.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Jean permalink
    January 28, 2010 6:18 pm

    You are educating us, Emily. All 8 parts of VICE came through. Extremely eye-opening, devastating. You are brave to go there. Maybe UN troops should stay on longer than planned. As for “development and aid”, it seems that Blahyi is doing more right now than all the bikes and computers of unnamed NGO.

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