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Friday, February 03, 2023

New 'Vice' episode indulges viewers with fast food, film

HBO ran its eighth episode of “Vice News” last Friday. Last week’s mini documentary covered the skyrocketing fad of fast food in Saudi Arabia as well as the booming movie industry in Nigeria.

The first half of the episode is covered by Gianna Toboni on her investigation of American fast food chains that have been altered for a Saudi audience. From the frantic 20-person staffed kitchen line of a Domino’s pizza to the equally extra large call centers for delivery, Toboni presents informative coverage. Comically, while dressed in Domino's employee attire, Toboni accompanies a Domino's delivery driver on a few runs to get a feel for the consumer market. Viewers will quickly realize the Saudi fast food industry has evolved into an even larger and more efficient model than its American counterpart. Eventually, the documentary shifts from the business side of the industry to the consumer side.

Saudi Arabian law prohibits the consumption, production and distribution of alcohol, making one of the social scenes for cultural gatherings not a bar, but rather, a restaurant. Toboni explains that the affordability of fast food creates additional appeal for an already successful market. Furthermore, this makes the food court of shopping centers the place to be.

However, the direction of the documentary begins to take clear steps toward depicting fast food’s growth as a negative one—but with good reason. It's important to note that at this point, the documentary is no longer acting as a medium of information.

To no one’s surprise, as fast food consumption has grown exponentially, so have health taboos like diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Due to the rapid spread of fast food’s popularity, 40 percent of Kuwaitis are obese. To depict these Kuwaitis, Toboni follows the health stories of a family that suffers from all of the negative consequences from the overconsumption of fast food. It concludes with a debate over whether the fast food industry should take responsibility of these flares in health issues.

By featuring an interview with a Saudi business professor who compares the fast food industry to big tobacco, “Vice” presents the opposing side of the aforementioned debate. Afterward, Toboni sits down for lunch with the former CEO of CKE restaurants to discusses the personal responsibility that individuals need to take when consuming fast food.

The second documentary switches to “Vice” writer Thomas Morton as he covers the expanding growth of Nigerian cinema, dubbed “Nollywood.” From casting calls, acting and distribution of these films, Morton provides an in-depth look at this interesting take on the film industry. The process is similar to Hollywood’s; however, viewers will be caught off guard at a few of the cultural influences that have shaped the system.

Morton even goes as far to get casted in one these Nollywood films. Due to Morton's endless awkwardness, the documentary offers almost as many laughs as it does information. Regardless of whether this was the intention of “Vice,” the onscreen interaction during the casting call and filming of the movie clearly shows a journalist out of his comfort zone.

In its concluding interviews, the documentary points out the benefit that this growing market has had in developing a middle class for Nigeria.

Though the first documentary favored a negative depiction of fast food’s impact on Saudi Arabia, both features serve as informative publications that viewers can learn from.

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