Netflix’s Dark Tourist First Impressions

Dark Tourist is Netflix documentary hosts by the New Zealand journalist David Farrier. The series explores the phenomenon of dark tourism – tourism that involves traveling to places associated with death and suffering.

I enjoy a good documentary. But I feel like so far in this first episode I’ve been disappointed. They don’t go in depth enough for me about these topics. The first episode is covering two topics: the legacy of Pablo Escobar in Medellín and dark tourism in Mexico City.

In Medellín Farrier shows a short section of him in a tourist show with a Pablo Escobar look-alike. It shows how locals still make money from Pablo’s legacy, something that Farrier explores a little more by talking to the locals. I think it’s such an interesting topic – especially how so many of them are grateful to Pablo because they took them out of living in huts to living in houses because he built up the area. But this topic is quickly moved onto seeing someone where Pablo used to live and meeting his brother’s ex-wife in law. It’s a bit of a strange jump that I personally didn’t see much appeal in because it didn’t reveal much or tell us much about him or his life or tourism. Farrier then moves on to meeting Popeye, Escobar’s former hit man. This could of been super interesting but they didn’t discuss the legacy of Escobar as much as Farrier fretted over whether or not it was okay to think that Popeye seemed like an okay person. The episode then changed over to Mexico City.

In Mexico City there’s not that much of a set tourist attraction Farrier explores? He talks a little about the Day of the Dead before leaving that topic behind to meet followers of Santa Muerte (a cult) and witnesses an exorcism. The show then again quickly changes to Farrier experiencing a mock illegal crossing into the US.

With each episode only 40 minutes long and each episode exploring a different area (i.e. Episode 1 is Latin America, Episode 2 is Japan, Episode 3 is the US…) I think this documentary is trying to cram way too much into this short time period. Such interesting topics from episode 1 I felt like I barely learnt about. I understand that the documentary is based upon learning more about dark tourism so it’s not as important to know the history of Pablo Escobar say, but I felt like there was such wasted resources. He had so many interesting people to interview and footage to shoot and I felt like I learnt nothing – just watched a guy walk around these locations a bit and not really exploring the topic in depth.

It was a very basic episode that has an interesting premise but falls very, very flat for me by trying to focus upon too many places. We’re jumping from city to city and person to person instead of actually exploring the topic. There’s no interesting insights or take-aways.

I think if I continue to watch this series it’ll be late at night while I’m needing to shut off my brain and relax because it’s not very stimulating, but still is somewhat structured enough that I could watch it episode by episode.

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