Ben Anderson’s Holidays in the Axis of Evil, a BBC documentary, is an interesting look at the people in nations George W. Bush labeled evil empires in his January 29, 2002, State of the Union address. How would local citizens feel having their country branded “evil?” The North Koreans seemed friendly enough, until Anderson met up with an American who had just spent two weeks imprisoned for making a joke about the girth of their leader. Then it is on to Syria and Iraq, where a guided tour allows Anderson to see many ancient artifacts as well as local people. When heading near Iraq, the tourists are advised not to mention Sadaam Hussein’s name as everything is bugged, but to only refer to “Ted” if needed. When arriving in Iraq, Anderson notes that there are mammoth photos of Ted everywhere! Anderson is a low key Brit with an easy manner, perfect for connecting with local folks. His non-threatening manner keeps him filming throughout most of the countries he visited.
North Korea Friendly, Syria, and Iraq are “Unbelievably Welcoming”
Watching locals play soccer in a refurbished ancient castle, being greeted by friendly children, seeing goats shepherded across the landscape give contrast to the ugly pictures of George H.W. Bush that were seen in Iraq, with “Bush is a Criminal” plastered on walls. In the South of Iraq, where the Shiites reside, most of the people that once inhabited the area have been killed. Sadaam was a Sunni and showed no mercy to the Shiites. The Iraqi people in Southern Iraq were called “the unluckiest people in the world,” unloved by their leader, decimated in number, yet unable to voice any opposition to a leader they could not support. On what was supposed to be a scenic boat trip, Anderson witnessed the damage done to the country by western bombs. Death to Americans and Israel seemed to be a common theme during much of his journey.
Iran is Repressive but the People are Not Evil
On the “A” List for having biological weapons and pursuing nuclear weapons, Iran seemed to be an interesting country. However, it was not long before Anderson and his film crew were taken in for questioning, with seven days of relentless interrogation and threats of execution. Finally, although they lost their film, they were released. The documentary for this part of the film is a discussion of the crew’s experience of Iran and how it contrasted with the people, many of whom hate the regime but are not free to take any action.
Then it was on to Libya and finally Cuba. Having heard much political rhetoric in these nations, Anderson was prepared for the romantic vision of Fidel Castro as a revolutionary – Castro outlasted nine U.S. presidents and irritated most of them. Before the crew set out, Anderson met with a daughter of Castro’s who now lives in Miami and hosts a talk radio show. She became quite disenchanted with Cuba and headed for the U.S. when she could. Throughout his journey, Anderson found that most of the people he met were warm and courteous; if there was a force of evil in these countries it was in their leaders, not the man on the street. The film gives a feel of international camraderie throughout. We are all wanting to live our lives, care for our families, be left alone, while governing bodies upset the apple cart and disrupt lives.
This program was well-received and Anderson and the BBC continued the series, with future journeys to include Amerasians left behind in Vietnam by U.S. soldiers, Cambodia after Pol Pot, and many other fascinating looks into unfamiliar nations and people. These films may be seen in several places online for free; one is listed below. This film has a very personal feel to it, more like a travelogue and personal journey of discovery than anything else. Yet the personality of Anderson and his ability to connect with a variety of people of all ages and in all segments of society make this a highly enjoyable film to view.