Jungleland on the Vice Channel

I know not too many people get the Vice Channel, but it’s good, especially the stuff by Spike Jonez and produced by Bill Maher.

Anyway, Jungleland is a documentary about a guy who bought some land in the Panamanian jungle and wants to build a sustainable village there. He has a good staff of hard-working, smart, and capable people, and advertises for people to come for an eight week internship where they will build the village and learn about sustainable agriculture, clean water, building, cooking, etc.

The problem is, the people who responded to his ad are a bunch of hippies with various ailments including lots of depression, food allergies, and diet restrictions. They seem to have missed the part about “building” a village and thought they were going to an eco-tourism resort. “You mean we are actually supposed to build this place from scratch? With machetes and shovels and wood and sheet metal?” It’s as if they thought eight weeks of painting and dancing and hitting bongo drums was going to produce a village.

There seem to be about a dozen (out of sixty or eighty) interns who actually get it. They come from hard working backgrounds like restaurants or farms and roll up their sleeves and get to work. Some others are lone wolf cowboys who come with an idea and make it work. One guy brought along material to make a still and distills booze with native jungle ingredients. He’s actually bottling and selling his hooch in the city and turning a profit. He also brews beer which he seems to sell mostly to the interns.

It’s fascinating and frustrating at the same time, but not fascinating for the reasons the owner and filmmaker expected. Some will take what they’ve learned and expand it at home or elsewhere, but I’d guess 90% of them will be working in a coffee shop or at mom and dad’s business six months after they get home. About a dozen have quit and gone home already.

The owner and staff seem to hate almost all the interns but they pay the bills.

It’s original run is almost over but there’ll be reruns. I think it is one of the best rated shows the little network has.