The VICE Guide to Liberia

The VICE Guide to Liberia

2009, Society  -   69 Comments
Ratings: 7.98/10 from 40 users.

The VICE Guide to LiberiaWhat Andy Capper, Vice UK Editor, is saying about the film: We arrived in Liberia with a small crew of three and quickly rendezvoused with a local journalist who would be our fixer and guide. Our first shooting location was the West Point slum, home to 80,000 people living in conditions that redefine squalor. Miles of rotting garbage surround the slum, which has no sewage system.

Pretty much everyone - even the local government officials - defecates and urinates in the open. Drugs, prostitution and armed robbery are the main industries. We got to know some of the residents of West Point, who told us their stories as they smoked heroin and cocaine and begged us for money.

Next we visited a local brothel. The women who lived there talked with us about the U.N. soldiers who have sex with the child prostitutes and beat the older women, and then leave without paying.

But perhaps the most revelatory portions of our trip to Liberia came from meeting the major warlords of the nation's civil wars. There's a tradition in Liberian militias of taking on extravagant noms de guerre. Hence, our subjects were named General Bin Laden, General Rambo and General Butt Naked. The latter, in particular, was one of the most notorious Liberian warlords. He claims to have personally killed 20,000 people including babies, and to have sometimes cannibalized his victims.

Today, General Butt Naked goes by his birth name, which is Joshua. During our time together, he told us that Liberia will surely implode into civil war again when the U.N. leaves next year. But in the meantime, Joshua wants to redeem himself. He offered us a glimpse of the Liberia that he wants to forge, and we found ourselves growing to like him. He took us to his church, where he rehabilitates child soldiers. We watched as he preached his way through Monrovia on a Sunday.

Is there a chance that his mission will succeed, and further civil war can be averted in this desperate country? That's one of the many questions that we came away with upon our safe return from Liberia. Watch our documentary about our time there and see what you think.

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69 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Kim Iannone

    When I lived through the coup d'etat of April 12, 1980 there was a big difference: Many people were pointing and firing guns.

  2. John Linnemeier

    Thanks for the grit and courage it took to shoot this documentary. As a younger man (I'm 73 now) I crossed the Sahara 3 times and saw a lot of stuff. Things were tough then but they're tougher now. I salute you for doing your best to give a realistic picture of some very dicey places like Liberia. I'm headed for Somalia in February, inshallah. I know the brother of the former mayor of Mogadishu and he says he can possibly help me with security. Sometime I'd like to meet up with some of you guys and swap stories.

  3. disappointed

    This is the most irresponsible documentary I have ever seen. Facts are wrong. Hasty reporting. Leading questions. Zipping in and out of the most vulnerable communities. Looking completely through the eyes of an American looking down on the people. Then you have to "get the hell outta here" because you f*cked up your interviews and riled people up by insulting them. Seriously? Move slowly. Talk to the rest of the people in Liberia who also lived through the war. They are offended by your film. The film only gets better because you actually spent time to get to know your main character and humanize him. Surely the other people deserved that too - or were you too busy holding your nose at the stench?
    PS - Samuel Doe was not elected. He killed the President in a coup.
    PSS - 70% of women are not raped. Misreported. 70% of women in program for survivors of sexual violence were raped and then the statistic was misrepresented and repeated over and over and over because it feeds into our imaginaries about Liberia.
    PSS - Read Wikipedia and consider editing the film.

  4. chris

    Get your act together, VICE. I'm all of 1 1/2 minutes into this documentary and you've already misidentified interim President Amos Sawyer as Samuel Doe. Jesus.

  5. bluetortilla

    I love VICE. I'm a total fan. I wish I could work you, or have at least a tenth of your bravery.
    Someone needs to a documentary on how VICE does documentaries.

  6. John Gilbani

    When blacks are left to their own devices, Liberia is the result.
    Violence, poverty & filth is indigenous to the species.

    1. seriously

      Violence is a human behavior. Poverty is a political construct (another human behavior). Your comment is filth.

      Nonetheless, we are the same species.

  7. jgwollaston

    Another error: When the rapper at West Point is rapping, one sentence is captioned as "Every hand on the shoulder." He didn't say "shoulder"; he said "sugar".

  8. jgwollaston

    At beginning of the movie, director wrongly states that Samuel Doe was elected. He was not. He and a handful of men raided Presidential Palace, killed most guards, killed President and people around him.

  9. me

    Typical. And for those of you who think that there should be more money thrown at Liberia, or any other country in Africa....are you insane? Billions of dollars, billions of man-hours, billions of lives lost in hopes of dragging the 'dark continent' into the 21st century. A country, a civilization, is only as good as the people who inhabit it. Get it? Probably not.....

    1. bluetortilla

      Great. Let's keep throwing trillions on bombs.

      Here's a question: "A country, a civilization, is only as good as the people who inhabit it. " Can YOU believe you said that?


    After I' saw this Documentary I'have a second thought about humanity in Liberia what is going on right now it's the lowest point for Human beings, I' would even call them Humans they are Animals I never thought peoples can live like that

    1. bluetortilla

      What do you mean animals? Animals are sweet and live in harmony. Predators kill to eat, herbivores eat plants, and plants live off the sun and earth.
      If you want to insult, say to animals that they are like humans.

  11. Pangaea

    after watching Congo vice guide it prompted me to watch this.. I was really enjoying it until it got to part 4
    (This vid has been removed , content violated youtubes terms)
    I was gutted as i was really enjoying it, just for the benefit of others if you do a search in youtube for the title of the this docu you can find the missing 4th part.

    just thought ide give you the heads up on that

  12. Winston Smith

    that's what great about Christianity,,,there is redemption (and a job) even for rapists and killers

  13. BeardHero420

    Liberia seems like my psychotic idea of fun. I mean, if you could call stalking and killing the warlords and war criminals "fun". Kinda like extreme camping. With cannibals.

  14. TonyIII

    Inspiring; Strange; sad, informative, hopeful, generous.Watch it.

  15. Ciro Golden

    hahahah when that prost. was demading all that stuff that guy was sitting there "ok... ok ... ok.... ok" hahahaha


    5 mins into I am shaking my head! OMG they are monsters

  17. Liz

    Good doco. It shows how important it is to not only raise awareness of such issues but to also do something about it. Giving as little as $20 helps make a change in some of these communities. Don't just hum and ha about how bad it is but do something to help!

    1. me

      Can't throw more money at the dark continent....Billions haven't helped any country in Africa, especially Liberia. Can't change the nature of the tribes. Hopeless.....

    2. Alex G

      you are just a bitter racist. its best to keep opinions to yourself. instead of just stating billions and billions of dollars being poured into these countries you should go and look up where exactly this money is going and how its being sent and who is controlling it the distribution of the funds. because the fact is is that you really do not know s***. no instead you read a heading on an article (probably some underground racist newspaper) and begin to assume things.

    3. me

      Why do you say that? Do you see money helping anything in the continent of Africa? Has money helped any problem in any country in Africa in the past four hundred years? Why would stating the obvious make me a racist? Have you been to ANY country in Africa? Do you know the answer to any of your questions? Can you back up any of your ad hominem attacks? Or, are you just an over-emotional, knee jerk reactionary that doesn't know what they're talking about?

  18. Victoria

    Thank you to the filmmakers for creating this important film. Watching the 1st couple of sections I was afraid that they were focussing on the grit and the sensationally dark side that is too often the focus of any media coverage on Africa. But having seen the entirety, I trust the filmmakers were presenting their honest impression. I commend their efforts.
    Interesting to note that the US wanted to recruit these vicious killers to fight in Iraq. I wonder how many Liberians are doing the US' bidding in our wars today. Would be a good topic for another film/expose.
    I'm so grateful for this website. Film is such a powerful medium and the works presented on this site need to be seen. Thank you!!

    1. Greg_Mc

      Havent watched the doc yet but I wanted to say something to your comment about on the U.S. wanting to recruit the vicious killer in this doc to fight in Iraq. I think if we knew more about the mercenaries, whether they are professional ones from the west or people you saw in this doc, that the American's have hired to fight in Iraq or maybe even Afghanistan and what kind of people some of them are and what they are capable of doing to people it would shock and sicken you. I have just seen portions of docs and read or heard the odd thing about the non army people (mercenaries) fighting on the American side and to put it in a beyond nice way they are not very nice or in some cases mentally stable.

  19. Eugene

    peace is the way forward

  20. Chris

    Tough to believe in good after watching this doc and some others. I believe that man is greedy, self serving and down right evil at times. I think a good old fashioned mass extinction is on the way and in my opinion can't come quick enough.

    1. Michael

      Man is inherently evil. Only through Christ, can we be redeemed.

      Like Joshua Blahyi in this documentary. He was saved by God from a life that served evil.

    2. Hadrien Hadife

      So God created us inherently evil...what a nice guy that God! He must have been was said by a great man: We where created ill and ordered to be well...I am glad I do not believe but if it turned out to be true I would tell God to **** off.

    3. Barbara Loeding

      Well i dont blame you for not believing in such a God...but there are plenty of people who believe In God, who believe
      that God created us inherently noble with the capacity to know, love, serve God and our fellow human beings. God gave us " free will" . So it is us...ourselves who make choices..that abase ourselves ( or make choices to do good in the world).
      Google " noble have I created thee" for more info.

  21. phil atio

    I disagree, the west must stay out of africa, the more america and the white coutnries go into africa the more problem they create even when they are well intentioned.

  22. Agogeyes

    This reality is what most ignore, what most cannot fathom.
    I have so much respect for the Vibe crew.

    And if the teaching of Jesus, can allow "old sinners" to give their Soul to non-violence, vegetarian diets, and the spiritual protection of the youth, help me Jesus, and I will listen.

    This doc' is a real eye opener.
    Liberia. Liberia. Who will let, Liberia, be free from the hate?

    Let's pray!

    1. Marc Wonnink

      prayers ain't gonna help

  23. african

    @ Dr. Dunkleosteus, wouldn't that be a noble idea ... :)

  24. Dr. Dunkleosteus


    I agree, the USA is just making the situation worse and has historically been the cause of many of Africa's problems.

    However, I feel the USA should be held more accountable and forced to repair the damage they have done. The USA pokes its fat nose in other countries' business all the time: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, etc. This time, they should be made to correct the problems they helped to create. Just leaving Africa alone would be to allow the USA to get away with all the wrongs it has perpetuated there. That is my opinion.

  25. african

    @ Dr. Dunkleosteus, I like how u elaborated the situation to @ Sadie the Celt, although she could have gotten what u said just from watching the documentary. As to the solution, there is only one. The west needs to leave Africa alone, period! Every problem there is created and escalated due to outside interference.

  26. african

    Welcome to the outcome of the intricate workings of our great nation, the USA!

  27. Dr. Dunkleosteus

    I agree, the situation definitely requires better coverage. Atleast it brings some attention if nothing else, I suppose. :/

  28. rink-a-fink

    Yes, that's true I suppose. I guess I just wanted something different.

  29. Dr. Dunkleosteus


    Good point. He does present himself as a "look at me, I'm crazy enough to go to this place" type of rebel film-maker. Although he does present it in a way that overwhelms the senses and perhaps he was overwhelmed with the situation, which actually makes it feel kind of appropriate. I think he seriously underestimated what he was getting himself into...

  30. short

    I never listen to Michael Jackson's song "Liberian Girl" the same way. This is a really cool doc.

  31. rink-a-fink

    Well, I don't think I need to comment on the state of Liberia. Humanity is in a sorry state. But I'll have to politely disagree with Dr. Dunkleosteus (great name btw) and say that I really didn't like the presenter. The way they edited and did the voiceovers put way too much emphasis on the "look how crazy I am- a white guy going to make a film in Liberia" aspect. The really f--ked up thing is whats going on in that country, and I really don't care if he gets scared going into the ghetto or what he's going to say in his speech at the end. It's such a shame, because as far as I know this is the only documentary on modern Liberia and it could have been much better. I don't really feel like I know much more about the situation there at all. We need to get Pilger down there to bust some serious balls in a feature-length film.

  32. boboteeninz

    Great Documentary.

    It seems like General Butt-Naked is up to something... what could it be?

  33. Alexandrea

    Very insightful & interesting documentary. I would highly recommend to others. Disturbing, heart wrenching, yes - nonetheless, a important film to view. Having just watched this film, I'm literally muttering to myself, "Liberia, Oh Liberia." WTF?

    Interesting view on the unreal reality of a poor African nation. Shane Smith definitely has balls and is currently holding the top spot on my list of who's a real gangster. Going to a WestPoint brothel at night? Now that's some gangster sh*t. Would I go? Heck to the no.

    I'm sure he saw some "Worst Nightmare" type things.

  34. Dr. Dunkleosteus

    @Leonardo, I just watched the N. Korea one on youtube. I'm sure V will have it up on here soon.

    That one is crazy as well! Shane Smith is a good narrator and host, I like him. Unbelievable facade. Along with Shane, after seeing the state of their country, I am lead to doubt the possibility that they have nukes.

    The Wodka Wars is also on youtube, but I found it to be more of an entertainment piece rather than exposing something of great importance.

    The Mecca Diaries is another interesting one. A little short, both in content and run-time, but it's a good insight into Mecca and Hajj. I remember seeing a really good doc on Mecca... Probably on here somewhere.

    These Vice films are very interesting. I'd love to learn more about this group and their videos.

  35. Dr. Dunkleosteus

    I believe it has a lot to do with resources. Like some others have said, Africa is rich with resources and all the developed nations want a piece. The African peoples have been exploited just lke the African Continent.

    The intro to this doc where the host explains the brief history of Liberia is a good summary of the situation: Africans are abducted and taken as slaves, Africans are returned with the intent of setting up an American sovereign state in Liberia (hence Monrovia). Those Africans that have western educations attempt to rise to power, in order to take control of the area and the resources. Americans back the forces loyal to America, fighting escalates, civil wars break out, and before long you have an enviornment so chaotic, so impoverished, so devoid of any system of education, that the Country collapses into an abyss of disease, murder, and all the other atrocities you see in this doc.

    Education can save the Country, but for that you need an infastructure to support it...

  36. Sadie the Celt

    @ Dr. Dunkleosteus

    I dont know much about the politics of this Dr.D., I only know how I feel.
    Can you give me some insight into this?
    Tell me - do you think there is a solution? (I mean) is it going to spread? how the hell did it get so Bad?
    I really really deeply affected by this Doc! thanks Dr.D - and Vlatko! x

  37. Dr. Dunkleosteus

    Insanity. Just pure, crystalline, chaotic insanity. Wide-spread madness and collective mania. This is the deep, dark pit. Like Sadie referenced with Apocalypse Now: "Horror. Horror and moral terror."

    Take a good, long, hard look humanity. This is what the end looks like.

  38. Sadie the Celt

    *indigenous (sp) sorry

  39. Sadie the Celt

    ....thinking on, I would do anything to help someone who is suffering, or in pain - I think we all would.
    But the worst part about this documentary is that the idigenous population seem to be desensitised. and thats what scares me most of all.

  40. Sadie the Celt

    Not many documentaries have left me lost for words, but this one has.
    I remember being horrified at that film 'Apocalypse' or 'Apocalypse Now' ?
    Anyway it took me literally months to put this film out of my mind, and I had to keep telling myself "its only a film Sadie"
    but this is a documentary - with real people and real events. so I need to really come to terms with this. sorry.

    Thanks Vlatko - knowledge IS power, I think!

  41. Anon

    @TunWu - re GBN's vision, I don't think he was lying. This isn't something novel if you look back in history. It was also a rather big change in his life and I don't really see what he has to gain from lying about it.

    @Reason's Voice - I agree that money and infrastructure will not help these people. However I don't think bloodshed will help them either. If people didn't take more than what they need to be happy we really wouldn't be in the situation we're in now.

  42. Reasons Voice

    While I do agree that something could/should be done to help places like this, blaming the U.S. or the UN... The UN, led by U.S. troops did attempt to intervene in a very similar situation. That was in Somalia. And during and after the attempt there was nothing but complaint and Anti-war protest etc. To believe something could be done in a place like this without bloodshed is naive. Honestly do you think that throwing money and infrastructure at people who believe that if they get naked and eat a baby they are immune to bullets is somehow productive? I feel for the plight and on the flip side of the page see absolute insanity of th people. The patients are running the assylum.

  43. StatingtheObvious

    What to say? The same man who cuts out human hearts and feeds them to his children warriors, the same man who claims to have killed no less than 20,000 people, can be seen as a religious leader years later. Wow.

    Must watch documentary.

  44. StatingtheObvious

    Wow the first part I was wide-eyed the entire time. On to the rest...

  45. TunWu

    The documentary is good...these guys have guts to film there, but it would have been better if they could show some more of what goes on in there. The country is supposed to be rich in resources. someone must surely be making money from all those resources...even now.

    As for General Butt Naked, he is probably still the same man. Look at the c@#$ he n white woman with more light than sun calling him a slave...f--k!

    He is probably just preparing to be the next President...and we have little reason to believe he'll be any different from the ones in the past. I know this sounds cynical, but look at the guy. He is already dreaming he will have memorials and monuments dedicated to him!

  46. Eric T

    This is one hell of a documentary.

  47. jono

    These guys have some balls. The sense of imminent danger was palpable.

    Very good insight into an incredibly troubled area.

  48. Tyler Durden

    A fresh and honest look at an problem endemic to many African countries. Why the U.S. continues to only consider human rights an issue in countries with Oil or some strategic advantage important is no mystery. We need more reporters like those who do the Vice programs, ones with big balls who tell it like it is. With the U.N soon to leave and Prince Johnston running for Pres.

    Sadly for Liberia that aid will never come in time. The next goon to be elected will run them further into the ground and they will never receive the international attention needed to secure aid. The international community has a hard time dealing with and sending foreign aid to Warlords with criminal records and the people just aren't educated enough to realize the consequences for electing such a man to office because they never get the bigger picture, it's kinda hard to see it when you deficate in the street and worry about getting killed and eaten everyday.

  49. Imightberiding

    Holy Sh*t! Wow! This is just mind numbing & heart wrenching. Absolutely surreal! It hits straight to the core. In that what I mean as what we really are as people & are capable of. I am not naive as to the atrocities that occur on this planet of ours. This just really goes beyond & is happening in a contemporary moment in time!

  50. loli

    Frankly I just felt sad for the little monkey :(

  51. Eduard


    I agree with you and i understand your feeling. I feel the same. Unbelievable we human call ourself human beings? Sick!

  52. Leonardo

    from the same makers, the vice guide to north korea, and the gun markets of pakistan, etc all amazing stuff!

  53. ez2b12

    Man, what do you say about this documentary? I really don't know what to say other than to express a bunch of tacky sounding sympathy and of course revolt toward the situation these people live in. But what good does that really do?

    All I will say is I feel sick and need to think about things for awhile. Why!?! Gods why?! do we have people living like this? I know it's all about money and power, I guess i just didn't know how far it could go. I am sick inside. Sorry for rambling, but this has taken something from me. I don't know- I'm not making any sense- sorry.

    1. Vlatko

      There is one great guy called @Nielsch. He suggested this doc. I must admit @ez2b12, I also didn't know how far it could go, before watching this.

  54. Reasons Voice

    Interesting doc. The world is one hell of a F'd up place. Would I be enriched somehow by doing as this guy did an seeing a place like this in person? Probably. Would I ever go? Nope.

  55. dell

    that guy has got balls going there!
    i was scared for him just watching my screen...

    good documentary thought :)

  56. Leonardo

    seen this as well as many works. amazing stuff!

  57. princeton

    I was actually born in the Ivory Coast right next to Liberia, and while growing up, we always heard reports of civil war and all kinds of atrocities and I just never really knew the true story (mainstream media u'know)
    I remember experiencing much fear when watching news on Liberia as a kid, thinking how close to us they really were.. but now I.C. has its own civil war (Christians/Muslims).
    I'm glad we were able to leave when we did.
    Thanks for this find. Ur website is awesome by the way and I've seen almost every doco u put out, Keep it up. :)