Sign Up to Crafters Newsletter
for Free!

For David Farrier, Dying Is Not Worth It, But You Should Try Coming Close To It

Kalya Risangdaru
March 20, 2020
Translated from Bahasa Indonesia by Sagar Bhambhani and Joyce Camille Reyes

“I am David Farrier and this trip gets weirder than I ever imagined.”

Dark Tourist—a travel documentary series on Netflix—opens with this line. David Farrier, a New Zealand-based journalist introduces himself and the episode the audiences are about to encounter. For people with wanderlust, yes, it’s must-watch. But with its macabre twist on tourism, it’s not hard to imagine why the show is at the top of the streaming platform’s ‘Popular’ section.

Throughout 8 episodes in a season, Farrier explores the most bizarre cultures, customs, and rituals around the world. As a critical and inquisitive journalist, he tries not to judge, he deals with every challenge in each country with utmost respect to local customs.

He has visited Pablo Escobar’s former prison (“La Catedral”) in Colombia and has gone to the “suicide forest” in Japan. He’s explored a former nuclear testing area with high levels of radiation in Kazakhstan. He’s also tried voodoo rituals in Africa. Farrier goes beyond visiting a place as a mere tourist; he explores and investigates unique phenomena and seeks to be part of it first-hand.

david farrier dying not worth try coming close peace

One such place Farrier dived deep into was Indonesia. He even and took part in the Ma’Nene rituals of its Toraja people.

For many, Indonesia exudes a certain mystical charm for its a place beyond the beaten path. And depending on who you’re asking, it can go from different to strange to taboo. But again for a person like Farrier, strange is normal.

“In Indonesia, I learned not to be afraid of death”, says Farrier, in his interview with The Crafters. (And yes, if you’re wondering, we managed to interview him!)

For some background, the following interview you will get to read is shot in the dark that managed to hit its target. Casually sending Farrier a message on Instagram, these writers were surprised to get an affirmative response.

In this interview, Farrier talks about the extensive research he undertakes before he starts the filming in a particular location. He also says Indonesia is one of the places he would like to revisit. Here he shares many anecdotes from his experiences—some outrageous, others quirky, some others cannot even begin to imagine. Read on below.

david farrier dying not worth try coming close

How did you conceive an idea as bold as the Dark Tourist?

I made a documentary film titled Tickled in 2016. The documentary tells the story of a conman who tricks young people online from around the world. It was truly a crazy journey of more than two years and. in the end, I was able to show the film at the Sundance Film Festival, HBO, and Netflix Indonesia—if I’m not mistaken. Anyway, a TV producer in New Zealand saw it and liked it. He too, 10 years ago, had a similar idea to make a series on dark tourism and that I was the right person to work on the series with him.

Dark tourism is a term for a travel experience that is not the ordinary kind or one which people normally go for when they travel. (NO, it does not imply there is anything sinister.)

Usually, on such tours, people will take part in excursions which could be considered strange. Some of these places have a ‘dark side’ to them, such as death, etc. But what we found is that, at the end of the day, these places are not just talking about death, but rather about they talk about how we should celebrate life. I feel very fortunate to be able to visit these places while investigating dark tourism in the world—like Fukushima in Japan, or the location which has been affected by most nuclear bombs in the world, Kazakhstan.

Let’s talk about those pink shorts with pineapples that you often use in the Dark Tourist. I really like them. Is there a story behind it? Do you have your own stylist or is every day a runway?

Ha, thank you! I too like these shorts, as you can see, because I often wear them in the Dark Tourist! I don’t have a stylist—I’m not that famous!! And in the Dark Tourist, I only wear everyday clothes, nothing special.

The person you see in the Dark Tourist is the real me. I often wear bright and colorful clothes even in places that don’t look completely normal. I think it’s very important to always be yourself!

Of all your experiences in Dark Tourist, if you have the chance to do it again, which episode and why?

I really want to revisit two places: Japan and Indonesia. I’m not saying this just because you’re from Indonesia! In truth, I feel that the people in these two countries are very kind and are very enthusiastic. One of my good friends, an artist, his father lives in Bali, so I want to visit him someday. Also, my musician friend Amelia is an Indonesian; her stage name is Fazerdaze. She has visited Indonesia several times and the Indonesians really like her music. I also want to see Amelia perform for an audience in her hometown. It’s not dark, but I want to see it.

We want to know your insights on how to make a good concept similar to Dark Tourist. What do you think is the most important thing to do before being bold enough to work on something?

Do a lot of research and know what you will do as much as possible before you start the production. This also includes involving people whose help you will need; local people best understand the place and local setup (customs, norms, etc.). This way, you will be more knowledgeable and sensitive to local customs, because the last thing you want to do is make a mistake or behave disrespectfully. Respect is key. So, do research, find the right support in the places you will visit before you go there. When talking about shows like Dark Tourist, it’s all a matter of teamwork. One part is to make our team based in New Zealand work well with the local teams in the areas that we visit, such as Toraja.

You are also a cool journalist! I read a lot of your writings on your website. Bold articles, and sometimes even NSFW. What are your current projects and how are you working on them?

Thank you for the compliment, hahaha! I think all along, my biggest mission has been for the Tickled investigations. Oh, and making films – which require travel (other than New Zealand) to Los Angeles and New York. I also need enough time to write on davidfarrier.com. I am working on an investigative-article about this Artificial Intelligence (AI) called “Zach.” It is used by doctors in New Zealand. And this paper requires a lot of legal licensing. To write an article, series or film, I need a lot of time and research, of course!

To approach sources that are quite dangerous in Dark Tourist, what does your team usually do? Do you have a bodyguard?

There are a few people that can take care of you. First, the camera person—the person who accompanies you the most during the shooting will definitely help take care of you. Also, usually I’m with a guide who helps me communicate with the locals. Sometimes, we bring security —albeit rarely—but it is clear that in some places, security is required. It doesn’t make sense to die if you can avoid it—it’s not worth it!

You must be aware that there are some limitations that exist in certain cultures or rituals. How do you know when it’s time to stop or, at least, say “run for your life?”

Obviously, you have to listen carefully to the locals who work with you. They know more about it. For cases like Popeye—Pablo Escobar’s man—you should be able to read the situation and be aware of what he is thinking.

During filmings, we continue to see each other (the crew) and triy reading the situations we were in at that time. After all, doing things like swimming in a nuclear-contaminated lake and eating a fish from the lake … is ridiculous. I shouldn’t have done that. Sometimes though, you just have to go for a swim on a hot day!

david farrier dying not worth try coming close filming
I learned that even in the midst of struggles and difficult times, humans can be very good and tough. Indeed, many bad things are happening out there – however, we need to always remember about the friendliness and beauty of humans.

Let’s talk about Indonesia. On your visit to Toraja, you found one of Indonesia’s unique cultures (I promise, you can find many other interesting cultures in other parts of Indonesia). Did you enjoy your visit? What part(s) of your experience was unforgettable?

I loved my visit to Indonesia. The part I liked most is the fact that death is a very respected subject and is not covered up there. Small children and adults are well aware of the meaning of death. And the things they do to respect their ancestors are very beautiful. I feel very honored and fortunate to be a part of their ritual. In the east, we tend to bury and forget death. In my opinion, this might actually be unhealthy.

When I was in Indonesia, I felt quite uneasy seeing animals getting sacrificed, but I really appreciated the fact that no meat was wasted and everyone participated in the ritual. I feel we have to understand and know where our food comes from. (Don’t just buy a stupid burger from McDonald’s!) I have huge amounts of respect for the people there, and the respect they gave us was greatly appreciated. I feel very lucky, also a little sick because of the rocky terrain!

If you get the chance (and I hope you do) to go to any area in Indonesia, what cultures or rituals interest you?

I’m interested in the unique Pasola* competition on Sumba; how that event continues to this day. I’ve only heard about this somewhere, so I want to do some research first before I visit.

*Pasola is a spear-fighting competition, played by throwing wooden spears at the opponent while riding a horse. It is usually held to celebrate the rice-planting season.

To be honest, I wanted to go and watch it alone, to enjoy local music and meet people there who might have watched Dark Tourist. Ask them for places to recommend. There are many hidden gems there.

Last question, from all the episodes of Dark Tourist, the Tickled film and your writings, what have you learned?

I learned that even in the midst of struggles and difficult times, humans can be very good and tough. Indeed, many bad things are happening out there—however, we need to always remember the friendliness and beauty of humans. I am very lucky to have gotten the opportunity to travel and meet many people. I like the fact that we all live so different lives, and there are many different things we can learn from each other. Like in Indonesia, I learned not to be afraid of death.

Discover and work with the best influencers in Southeast Asia

Heading 1

Heading 2

Heading 3

Heading 4

Heading 5
Heading 6




  • Test
  • Test 2

  1. Test A
  2. Test B

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.


Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

For David Farrier, Dying Is Not Worth It, But You Should Try Coming Close To It

Kalya Risangdaru
March 20, 2020

You must be a premium member to view the full content

Sorry, but the rest of this article is for our Premium Members only. To gain access to this content and many more benefits, subscribe below!

For David Farrier, Dying Is Not Worth It, But You Should Try Coming Close To It

Kalya Risangdaru
This is some text inside of a div block.
March 20, 2020

Crafters Newsletter

Sign up to our weekly email to get:
Article Updates
Event Announcements
Webinar Announcements
Free Research

Weekly Creative Supply


In-depth creative articles

Get it for free

Premium subscription

US$ 10 / month

8+ Free creative webinar tickets per month
All past tutorials, panels & interview recordings
Bespoke industry research & guides
Exclusive brand offers & VIP Events
In-depth creative articles

Related articles