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Tropic of Cancer [DVD]
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Circling the globe on a northern adventure
Simon Reeve circumnavigates the globe around the 22,835 mile long Tropic of Cancer, visiting 18 different countries, meeting amazing people, witnessing bizarre and beautiful sights, and encountering spectacular and endangered wildlife. Starting in Baja California - the long strip of Mexico that descends into the Pacific Ocean, Simon travels through Cuba, the Bahamas, Mauritania, the wastelands of Southern Libya, India, Bangladesh and Burma before finally reaching the some of the most beautiful (and also some of the dirtiest) beaches in the world. From gorgeous landscapes to deserts, small fishing villages to violent drug wars, Simon finds out what makes these places fascinatingly unique.
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It blends traveller's tales with an acute awareness of social inequality. Reeve reveals the consequences of globalisation, the economic recession, colonialism, rapid industrialisation and the effects of the modern world upon the natural and human environment. He also uncovers weird people, weird places and wonderful wildlife, making each hour-long episode an entertaining mix.
Many of the places on the 23,000 miles journey are well off the beaten track, where tourists don't normally get to travel. Reeve treks east across the Caribbean, the Sahara, over borders in North Africa closed to foreigners for decades, and through the deserts of Arabia and the remote jungles of Asia, to finish in Hawaii. He encounters repressive regimes (in Burma) and the secret police (in Morocco); widespread poverty and forgotten wars with refugee camps holding hundreds of thousands of homeless people; the drugs trade; industrial pollution and the wealth which comes with it; female wrestlers; the world's largest minefeld; the downturn in Dubai and more.
The Indian episode in particular is fascinating, revealing that the government is fighting a civil war within its own borders against Maoist revolutionaries. This programme highlights the complete contrast of the medieval rural lifestyle and urban development: the fish-farms which feed Kolkata are part of that city's sewage system... Reeve is shocked to discover that village children have no clean water, no state education, no health service. And there are goats and pedestrians roaming on the motorways!
Some of the snapshots you may have seen before (like the market gardens in Cuba or the baby turtles hatching on the beaches) in other documentaries. But plenty is unique to this series and while much of it sounds like grim viewing, it is lightened by the spirit of human optimism which Reeve so frequently encounters and inescapable majesty of natural world. The reefs of the Red Sea, the weird Lion fish invading the Bahamas, a wonderful oasis in the Libyan desert - all make for spectacular viewing.
There's no doubt that parts of Tropic of Cancer were challenging and distressing to film, and some of that transfers to the viewing experience. It can feel uncomfortable at times to see others in such distress, to understand that some habitats are being destroyed while we lounge on our sofas. So if you want a less intensive travelogue, then you should choose a different series to watch. You may also not necessarily agree with Reeve's perspective, or feel that he's only showing part of a situation - that's inevitable given a few minutes to summarise each circumstance (and at times the tone can feel a little like the LibDems on tour...)
But if you enjoy being informed about what's going on in our shrinking world, as well as seeing amazing sights which you're unlikely to ever encounter in person, then this series offers plenty of food for thought.
Some of the moments that lodged in my mind from this series was the outright corruption in Mexico (the ramming incident whereby the police sided with the renegade taxi driver and the Cancer team had to pay him off), the dispute over the Western Sahara (I feel ashamed to admit that I didn't even realise it was a country in its own right / knew nothing about the conflict), the plight of immigrant workers in the UAE and the suffering of those in Burma. It was disappointing that China put the kibosh on the Cancer crew being able to complete their opus by stopping them entering, and I'm glad Reeve made the point to camera about how much more beautiful the detour they were forced to take through Vietnam was anyway!
Well planned, well-research and well edited. Now he's done Capricorn, Cancer and the Equator, what's the next journey for Simon?
Simon's journeys are so interesting and fascinating and makes this DVD set an absolute must for anyone who is interested in the culture of other countries as well as some beautiful places and lots of amazing facts that you just would not know or believe.
No problems with the DVD, quick delivery, low price.
What are you waiting for? Buy it already!
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