Front-line frolics

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2009, 12:00am

For Diego Bunuel's mother, perhaps the best Mother's Day present ever is knowing her son is not going back to Iraq, Pakistan or any of the other war zones he has been frequenting over the past nine years - at least not for now.

The former war correspondent and host of the documentary series Don't Tell My Mother ... has been covering stories in the world's danger spots. But unlike other front-line dispatches, the Afghanistan in his show is not all Taleban; the Columbia is not drug trafficking; and the Africa is not rebellion and starvation. Bunuel focuses on the less-seen dimensions of less-travelled countries.

'[Bad news stories] only represent the minority, maybe 5-6 per cent, of the population,' says Bunuel. 'There are ... stories that have nothing to do with the problems. We have to get a different perspective on the countries than the one we usually have.'

But, he says, stereotypes are so deeply rooted he even had trouble convincing his mother when he first started the project. His plans and terrifying destinations were so nerve-racking she was on medication at one point.

'She used to be so worried but after seeing some of the stories, she realised that things were not as bad as she had seen in newspapers.'

After seeing footage of an underground hip hop show in Iran, a death metal music mosh pit in Baghdad, and the body-building scene in Iraq, it is difficult not to start looking at these countries differently. Life in these countries, it seems, is not so different from ours. They are also places where people have parties and visit museums.

The Frenchman hopes his surprising discoveries can reach out to the Facebook and video game generation.

'[My goal is] to get young people involved and engaged in the world,' says Bunuel, 'to broaden their horizons and show them there is an exciting ... world ... beyond electronic borders.'

His travels have not been without moments of danger, such as the time French UN troops rescued him from drugged child soldiers in eastern Congo.

'Be lucky, do your job conscientiously and hope for the best,' says Bunuel, who adds that you should not push your luck.

He says that is why he will be staying away from dangerous places in the near future and will be focusing on how people cope with problems such as population density, pollution and violence in big cities. In the meantime, the 33 year-old is preparing for another exciting journey.

'[My wife] is expecting a child. I think that will be a bigger challenge than anything.'

Catch season two of Don't Tell My Mother ... Mondays, 8.30pm, Nat Geo Adventure.