Weed, porn and illegal labor alone account for more than 10% on the American economy. Add weapons manufacturing, prostitution, and other assorted drugs into the mix and you’re looking at a significant portion of every dollar spent. The “shadow economy” is very well hidden. Luckily we have films to give us an insider’s view.

Most people in American don’t notice the black market. We do a great job of keeping our brothels well tinted, our baggies of blow in the third pocket of our jeans, and our 9mm’s tucked into our waistbands. In other countries, they could care less.  Last month I was working on a project in Manila. On one day within the period of six hours I saw all the major categories—a massive market of pirated DVDs, a raid by heavily armed plainclothes cops on a drug ring, and enough hookers to keep even the most well-heeled European sex tourist busy into the night. So if you aren’t able to head to a bustling mega city in the developing world, here’s a list of some of the best documentaries that give insight into the seedy world of the “Underdog.”


Pretty much everybody wants to get laid, male and female alike. Dudes are way more willing to pay for it, some upwards of 1000 clams an hour (I’m looking at you, Spitzer). Unfortunately, not everyone has that sort of scrilla to drop on a top shelf rendezvous.  Here are a few docs that explore the seedy underbelly of the sex trade.

American Pimp (2000)

Ahh, the exaltation of the Peeeyimp. The Hughe brothers look at how fast talking men in fur coats are put on a pedestal because they beat the shit out of emotionally weak women. The best part is the beginning where white people talk about it. Bitch, where my money?

Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids (2004) 

This one is more about how kids are affected by growing up with mom being a hooker. It’s actually an inspiring story, and more about the kids taking photographs than the sex trade itself. Overall, a good film.  Also on Nexflix.

Frontline: Sex Slaves
PBS is not all Big Bird and Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour. They have some genuinely edgy programs with Frontline at the top of the list. Check out their website, where they have a lot of their full programs online. Or, check out this series about how girls get lured into being prostitutes by the Odessa Mob. The full episode is on The You Tubes. 

Heidi Fleiss- The Would Be Madam Of Crystal

Fleiss is famous for being a superstar Pimptress, which is more formally known as a Madam. She has a black book with a roll call of Hollywood types that have used her services. She's been to jail and still has a meth problem. This HBO doc is her trying to get her shit together so she can start a Gigolo Brothel in Nevada. Check it out on HBO On Demand.


Slippin': Ten Years with the Bloods

Crack has not done anybody a favor, especially in places like South Central LA. Ok, maybe it's made some people rich. This is an amazing doc about the crack industry, run by gangs. But seriously kids, don’t smoke crack. Also Netflixable.

Frontline: The Meth Epidemic 

If intercity America has a problem with Crack, then outercity redneck chuckle-fucks living in central Oregon (and everywhere else) have a problem with Meth. I really had no idea that this drug was so destructive until I watched this series. I just thought it made people want to dig swimming pools and fill them with empty tall boys of Monster Energy Drink. If you watch this, look for the examples of “Meth-Mouth.” They are horrifying. But the truly horrifying thing is that this entire epidemic comes down to two things: pharma companies and cold medicine.  The series is free on Youtube. 

A Fateful Harvest 

A lot of the times the people growing drugs are not evildoers. They’re just farmers trying to make some money, surviving on the brink of total poverty.  It happens in Columbia for coca, and it definitely happens in Afghanistan with opium poppies. This doc tells the story.  Also available in full on Youtube.

Columbian Devil’s Breath 

VBS.tv is one of my favorite video sites around. I have basically watched everything they have ever put up.  This series is about a crazy South American drug called Scopolamine. It’s “The worst roofie you can ever image times a million.” That can't be good. The series is available here or on Youtube.


Darwin’s Nightmare

With the black market, where you find one thing, you find another. Where there are drugs there are guns. Where there are hookers, there are drugs. This film is one of best at showing how everything gets mixed into one giant clusterfuck that keeps this particular part of East Africa in the situation it is in. But really, it’s a story about Russians smuggling guns into war zones on giant transport planes used to export massive Nile perch. It just get's weirder from there. Check it on Netflix.

Bowling for Columbine

When I was a 14 year old I would schedule my weeks around TV Nation. I loved that show. I grew up in South Texas, so I also loved shooting guns. My family owns plenty of them. I even have my own shotguns that I have named. So don’t call me a Liberal Pussy when I tell you that I think Michael Moore makes some of the most important and entertaining movies out there. Bowling For Columbine is a superb film about America’s gun-lust. If you haven’t seen it, put it in your sights. Also on Nexflix.

Manda Bala (Send a Bullet)
This is probably my favorite doc of 2007. Like Darwin’s Nightmare, it shows how black market economies all work together and integrate with the economy at large, usually through corruption. In this case it's about kidnapping, guns, fraud, and frogs in Brazil. On top of that it has some of the best cinematography out there. Get it on Netflix.

Buying Guns in Pakistan

I'm going to end this on another from VBS.tv. This is a dope web spot about going to northern Pakistan to the word’s largest illegal gun market to check out the wares. It just shows how easy it really is to buy a handmade glock from a deaf guy with no tongue.

Now go get some.