3 Vice Documentary Shorts of 2021 That Deserve a Watch

Since its inception as a Canadian magazine in 1994, Vice has become one of the world’s biggest and most beloved media and entertainment networks due to its courageous initiative of telling the stories of those who walk off the beaten path. The subject matter of such highly praised documentaries—such as the LA Press Club award-winning feature “Russia’s War on Hip Hop” (2019), which investigates the country’s continuous cancellations of hip hop concerts, and “Showgirls of Pakistan” (2020), a thrilling tale about adult entertainers—gained millions of eyeballs on Vice’s content, both on air and on YouTube, from their young target audience. Each year, Vice pushes the boundaries of the previously bland format of television documentary work and this year is no different. Here are three short docs created by Vice that are certainly worth a watch. 

1. “The Skateboard Hero Who Fought a Terrorist”

Anyone with a board can tell you Vice is definitely the place to go for skateboarding content. Programs like the outrageous competition show “King of the Road” (2016) give the network the edgy, outlandish energy that caters so well to the younger generation. But in February, Vice released a short that showcased a member of London’s skating community in a rather different light. “The Skateboard Hero Who Fought a Terrorist” tells the harrowing tale of the late 

Ignacio Echeverría, a 39 year old lawyer who risked his life for the safety of strangers in the 2017 London Bridge Attacks. Like most individual centric docs, the short is jam packed with footage of a young Echeverría surrounded by loving peers at skate parks. Alongside these are multiple interviews with friends and family members sharing stories of his character. His bravery was the topic of discussion before the events of the attack were divulged in the piece with longtime friend Juan ‘Jura’ Algora telling a story of when he willingly put the wellbeing of others before his own. 

“He saw some guys harassing this girl. He tried to defend the girl,” Algora recounts, “because he was just like that, man he was so brave. The guys showed up at the skatepark and they beat him up. He didn’t like to see injustice.” 

This exact courage of his was shown on the night of June 3, 2017, when after getting some food following a long night of skating, Echeverría and friends started to head towards the London Bridge. They were met by a scene of chaos as terrorists were attacking citizens with knives, killing six and injuring 48. While his friends overlooked the massacre, it was Echeverría who sprung straight into action, fighting back with a skateboard in hand and saving a woman’s life. The remainder of the doc depicts the mourning of his loved ones as he went missing and was later proclaimed dead after a fatal stab wound. This short commemorates his heroic actions and accumulated more than 1 million views on Vice’s Youtube channel.

2. “The Downfall of the Yakuza”

While many recognize the name ‘Yakuza’ from the hit beat-up game franchise published by Sega of the same namesake, few know the depth in which this word is synonymous with the roots of Japan’s underground crime cirut. In this short, Vice lifts the veil to the infamously ruthless organization that is yakuza, which quickly is on the verge of extinction. The opening image is quite chilling: a small room with four heavily tattooed, older gentlemen sitting around a table speaking with reporter Mahmood Fazel. 

The first soundbite went to ‘Underboss’ who simply says, “I feel the danger of losing my life. But I have to do what I have to do.” As Fazel, a former high ranking member of one of Australia’s most notoriously violent biker gangs, sets the scene for how the yakuza has “dominated Japan’s criminal underworld for over a century through a quiet code of brutality, extortion rackets and gambling,” he points towards the various anti-yakuza legislation passed by the government which restricts the organizations previous hold on the city of Tokyo.     

His journey of uncovering the struggles of former yakuza members reentering society led him to Tokyo’s red light district where he met an expert on the subject, American journalist and close contact within the group, Jake Adelstein. Adelstein, who learned much about the yakuza during his time reporting on them, tells Fazel of the numerous setbacks former members face while attempting to reintegrate into normal life—from not being able to obtain a phone or even an apartment due to strict laws. 

While some may see these laws are overly egregious towards members looking to rehabilitate, what follows this talking point between them is the high level of violence within the syndicut. Chilling images of brutal confrontations are shown, many where bicycles are used as a weapon against foes.

“If you see it in a video game, yes they do that in real life,” Adelstein remarks. He goes on to say that the yakuza was a “necessary evil” in their prime when crimes like theft and home invasions were curbed by their deadly force. But, with the increasing number of police and decrease in overall crime, he sees no need for them to continue. 

Interviews also include conversations with Saturo Takegaki—one of the most powerful dons in the crime circuit—former yakuza member turned nurse Koyama, and a much more indepth return to the roundtable men from the beginning of the short.  

3. “Documenting America’s Underbelly – ALL GAS NO BRAKES”

It’s quite the understatement to say that Andrew Callaghan’s on-the-streets style YouTube series is taking over the world. With videos receiving upwards of 3-5 million views, the internet can’t get enough of his whacky documentation of the “fringe” of American society. Case in point, his most popular upload “Fourth of July” sees a sharply dressed, mask wearing Callaghan simply pointing his microphone to Florida beach goers who said the most outlandish things while all around them disregard all pandemic rules. Seeing how this video received a whopping 6 million views, it’s no wonder he and his show were the main subject of this January short by Vice. 

The short opens with Callaghan in his trailer describing himself as a ”young creative with a finger on the pulse.” What follows are clips from his channel such as the infamous foot enthusiast Flip Flip the clown, a biker saying that he’d “rather die than wear a mask” and a whole onslaught of outrageous material. 

“Only the lamest creators analyze themselves, package it into buzzwords and distribute it,” the now famous host says to the camera, ”I just go outside and put a suit on and just talk to people.” 

We see Callaghan and his road buddy driving to Rapid City, South Dakota to buy one of his staples, a ‘crispy oversized suit’ for an interview with a biker gang. He states that he got the idea for his signature look when he wore a suit to the Vice offices (of all places) to pitch his book. 

Unsurprisingly, this short gained Vice 3 million views over the past few months as they document Callaghan in his element. He meets motorcycle guys with rather loud personalities that are perfect for content. This doc gives a first time, in depth look one of the biggest creators on the platform.

Vice shorts are available to stream on Vice’s Youtube channel.

By Omar Letson

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