Saturday, 19 October 2013

TV Review: BBC3 Stacey Dooley Investigates - Crime, Carnage & Cancun

Back in the day I remember being overjoyed at receiving a cheap Saisho Walkman at Xmas and thinking I had won the lottery. Now today's "yoof" settle for no less then a £400 games console. Anything cheaper and you may as well have gifted them a freshly steaming turd and wrapped it their grandmother's underwear.

It the same principle with holidays. Malia is lame and Ibiza is old hat. The cool kids today what to party to Koh Phangan, Las Vegas or as Stacey Dooley ground breaking documentary discovers, Cancun. Two million party goers flock to Cancun every year for its beautiful white sand beaches turquoise Caribbean waters and tacky strip of mega-clubs & bars like Senor Frogs or Coco Bongo. It's a classy place.

Such attributes make it Mecca for Spring-breakers and an increasing amount of Brits with cash to burn. Dooley sets the scene by interviewing a trio of dolly birds at an all inclusive resort who are drunk by 4pm.

"There loads of fit Americans" they screech in unison.

Then she then interviews a bunch of lads of preening lads before a night out through a fog of Davidoff and Shockwaves. They are on their 8th consecutive night out and are getting to grips with traditional Latin American customs.

"Americans can't drink...they start chanting for no reason...we go what you doing, you're an's a completely different culture"

 For this series, Dooley's modus operandi has been to go to a popular tourist destinations and try and dig the dirt. She will either attempt to titillate viewers who might fancy a debauched holiday (see last week's expose on prostitutes Prague) or shock Guardian reading types who are aghast at the fact the hotel cleaner is not earning £20 an hour.

Sadly, despite Dooley's best efforts there are precious few revelations to be uncovered and little "carnage" you wouldn't see down your local high street on a Saturday night. Out on patrol with paramedics the best she can come up with a local who has got into the fight and slightly cut his head. On the beach trying to score she is offered drugs by some "cigar salesmen". It's small potatoes.

Out on patrol with the tourist police there is virtually no trouble on the "strip" as it is patrolled by officers with M16's in order to dissuade any would be narco-violence. Despite the high levels of violent crime in Mexico it's to Stacey's chagrin that she finds it difficult to argue with her chaperone when he says Cancun is:

"One of the safest cities in all Mexico"

Convinced she is just being fed the sanitised version of Cancun her handlers want her to see she hot-foots it "downtown" to interview hotel workers struggling on minimum wage. There are shots of dusty roads, wild dogs and tin-roof shacks. Problem is I've stayed in downtime Cancun and it is absolutely nothing like the scene depicted on screen. It's a bog standard, if unspectacular, Mexican town with a tree lined pedestrian area, open air restaurants and a modern bus station. What we are being shown is clearly way out in the sticks.

To fit the director's narrative between the affluent tourists on the strip oblivious to the suffering of the locals they have conned the viewer into believing "downtown" Cancun is some two-bit-tumbleweed shanty town within spitting distance of the plush resorts. This may be the case in Rio but not in Cancun. Sad, they have to use this sort of subterfuge to hoodwink the viewer.

Its hardly groundbreaking to find out the local cleaners don't get paid more than £3 a day but they wouldn't be particularly well paid if they lived in the UK either.

 The only arresting interview that Dooley captures during the documentary is that of a reformed drug addict confesses to killing 25 people, when he was 15, to fund a heroin habit. He would carrying out these hits for the drug gangs on their non-paying rivals. As the age of responsibility in Mexico is 16 the courts were unable to impose a prison sentence. He now bakes bread and is trying to turn his life around.

Dooley "Who did you kill?"
Killer: "Mostly women"
Dooley: *goes white*

Having watched a few of Dooley's documentaries I get the feeling her production team come up with a catchy title first and think about the documentary later. To call them lightweight affairs is like saying Hitler wouldn't have been a very good host at the MOBO's.

Dooley showed a lot of promise with her initial foray into the world of documentary making with her part in Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts expose on the textile industry's fondness for Indian sweat shops. However, her subsequent documentaries have suffered from having some great ideas stymied by amateur research, cheap voyeurism and a style of presenting that owes more to Stacey Solomon then it does to David Dimbleby.

At 25 she is still earning her docu-chops but if the quality doesn't start to improve there is going to be a lingering suspicion that she just was the check out girl that got lucky.

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