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South of the Border (1987)

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clip 'Stop filming' education content clip 1

Original classification rating: PG. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

Filmmaker David Bradbury is filming Salvadoran protest song being sung by young people at a train station. A policeman tells him to stop as he does not have permission to film. The crew continues to film the event.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows a group of three children busking in a railway station in El Salvador. While filming the children, filmmaker David Bradbury is approached by a police officer who asks if he has a permit to film. After checking Bradbury’s documentation the police officer orders him to discontinue filming and then tries to stop the children singing their protest songs. However, Bradbury keeps the camera rolling and the children continue to perform. The second song finishes and the crowd of commuters applauds the children.

Educational value points

  • Nueva Canción (New Song) is the name of a protest movement in Latin American music that emerged in Cuba in the 1960s and spread to other parts of Latin America such as Chile, Argentina and El Salvador. Music has always been part of the resistance movements in these countries and was used to protest against the repressive right-wing dictatorships that held power in Central and South America and to promote ideals such as social justice and equality. The media in these countries was censored, so song became a way to express political ideas.
  • Nueva Canción was adopted as a way of expressing solidarity between people across Latin America who were trying to bring about political reform in their countries. The children in this clip dedicate the second song they sing to the 'children of Central America’ who 'are taking up rifles’ to defend their countries. The lyrics of the song include the words 'Our song knows no frontiers’. Nueva Canción was based on Latin American folk traditions including Andean, Spanish and Cuban music as well as the Chilean cueca, a rural song form, not only to celebrate and affirm cultural identities, but also because these musical traditions were seen as coming from the people.
  • El Salvador is bordered by Honduras and Guatemala and is the smallest but most densely populated country in Central America. It has a land area of about 21,000 sq km and in 2006 had a population of 6.8 million people. From 1931 the country was ruled by successive military dictatorships, and in 1979 a coup brought a civil-military junta to power. The junta later became embroiled in a civil war. In 1992 a peace agreement brokered by the United Nations ended the war and introduced political reforms.
  • 'South of the Border’ was made in 1987 during the civil war in El Salvador, which lasted from 1980 to 1992. From the 1970s there was growing discontent among El Salvadorians concerning political repression and the inequality between the lives of the majority of the population who lived in poverty and those of the small wealthy elite who dominated government. In 1980 a civil war broke out between the US-backed right-wing government and leftist guerrilla units led by the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). While some in the government attempted reforms, military-backed death squads were responsible for the torture and murder of thousands of the government’s opponents. It is estimated that the war left 75,000 dead.
  • The reaction of the police officer to both the children’s performance and the presence of the camera is included by the filmmaker perhaps to illustrate the level of oppression in El Salvador in the 1980s. In some Latin American countries in this period, singing protest songs could lead to arrest and even death, for example Chilean Victor Jara, who is referred to in one of the children’s songs and is regarded as a founder of Nueva Canción, was tortured and murdered under Augusto Pinochet’s regime in Chile.
  • Documentary filmmakers and photojournalists often face ethical questions, including whether they should keep filming if this will place the crew or the subjects of the film at risk. There have been instances where documentary crews have been detained and even killed while filming. Bradbury has a reputation for going to great lengths to secure footage. He was able to make 'Chile: Hasta Cuando?’ (1986), about life under Pinochet’s military dictatorship, by using the pretext that the film was about music and religious festivals, thus raising another ethical question: does the end justify the means?
  • The second protest song in the clip refers to Latin American revolutionary leaders. Augusto Sandino (1895-1934) led a rebellion between 1927 and 1933 against the US military presence in Nicaragua. Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara (1928-67) was a leader of Cuban resistance fighters. Farabundo Martí (1893-1932) was an El Salvadorian communist after whom the FMLN was named. The assassination of Archbishop Romero (1917-80), a critic of human rights violations in El Salvador, led to international pressure for reform in that country.
  • 'South of the Border’ is the work of filmmaker David Bradbury, who has earned an international reputation for being passionate about the issues he focuses on in his documentaries, such as political and social oppression and environmental vandalism. A former ABC journalist, Bradbury’s first documentary was the critically acclaimed 'Frontline’ (1979), a portrait of Australian news cameraman Neil Davis. His documentaries include 'Nicaragua: No Pasaran’(1984), 'Loggerheads’ (1990), 'Nazi Supergrass’ (1993) and 'Fond Memories of Cuba’ (2002).

David Bradbury is filming children – two boys and a girl – singing a protest song on a train platform. A policeman approaches him. The clip is in Spanish with English subtitles.

Policeman (Speaks Spanish) Your permit, please…

David Bradbury, filmmaker Yes?

The policeman inspects his documentation.

Children (sing in Spanish) Listen driver. I’m also steering myself through life. We too don’t have enough to eat. Running in third gear, I get by. You too have the wheel of life in your hands. You can change things if you want to. Don’t wait for the solution to come from above in this unequal world. Change things. Take a different turn and see…

At the end of the song the audience applauds. One of the boys offers around a cup for people to donate change.

Girl (Speaks Spanish) This song comes from El Salvador. We dedicate it to the children of Central America who at this very moment are taking up rifles to fight and defend their countries.

Policeman You need a permit…

David Why?

Policeman This is not permission!

David But isn’t this a free country?

Policeman You need a permit. Stop filming! Stop filming!

David We can’t film here…?

David continues to film.

Children (Sing in Spanish) …destroying dictatorships! With Sandino and Che Guevara. With Farabundo and Archbishop Romero. With the voice of Victor Jara whose voice belongs to the whole continent. We are an active volcano and our fury won’t be held back until the oppressed can sing for peace! We are millions of brothers and sisters forging our difficult history. Hammer, rifle and song destroying dictatorship. Our song knows no frontiers. Our sun belongs to everyone and it will blind the brutal imperialists. With Sandino and Che Guevara. With Farabundo and Archbishop Romero. With Victor Jara’s voice which belongs to the whole continent. We are an active volcano and our fury won’t be held back until the oppressed can sing for peace.

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