John Safran’s Race Around the World

Those of you that aren’t from Australia might be surprised to learn that ABC (that’s the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) ran a series in the late ’90s called Race Around the World. The premise behind the show was this:

Eight “racers,” selected from thousands of video auditions, were chosen to travel the world for 100 days with a video camera to produce a series of short documentaries of their choosing. They could go anywhere they wanted and document whatever they found to be interesting. When the show aired, the documentaries were shown and a panel of judges in the media and film industry, along with the audience, voted on the best ones, selecting an overall winner. It’s sort of like a mix between American Idol and Amazing Race, but without the stupid tasks.

In the first season, a filmmaker from Melbourne named John Safran was selected to appear on Race Around the World. Although he came in last place in the competition for breaking the rules (no hidden footage was allowed, but John whipped the camera out in a confession booth), his documentaries often won the audience vote and were by far the most entertaining to watch. “From getting mugged in Bangkok, to having a camera broken in India,” notes another racer, Kim Traill, “John has easily become our most disaster-prone writer.”

Thanks to YouTube, you can find 10 of the documentaries he filmed on the show, and they’re a blast to watch. Catch them all after the jump.

Story 1: “Don’t screw with the rules in Japan”

Story 2: “Ambulance Chaser”

Story 3: “Anarchy in the Renault family hatch-back”

Story 4: “The right to bare grudges”

Story 5: “Mum, I’m not Jewish anymore”

Story 6: “Father Pino vs. the devil”

Story 7: “Mohammad’s guide to busing a move”

Story 8: “Football’s my religion”

Story 9: John’s audition tape

Story 10: “The happiest place on Earth, my butt”

Thanks for the story, MeFi!