Extending the Link debuts documentary May 15

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May 13, 2020


It’s a word Abby Rader and her fellow Extending the Link crewmembers heard often while traveling in Peru over winter break.

They were there working on a documentary, the 13th produced by the nonprofit, student-run venture through the College of Saint Benedict, Saint John’s University and the Donald J. McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship.

The latest project focuses on the need for accessible and affordable transportation that allows individuals access to social and educational opportunities – both at home in Minnesota and abroad.

And convivir - that oft-heard word - became a key part of the documentary’s title.

“To a novice Spanish speaker like myself, I took it to mean to live together,” Rader, a CSB senior, said via email. “But Bruce Campbell (a professor of Hispanic Studies at CSB and SJU) brought this word to our attention, stating that in Latin America, convivir means more than just to live together. It means the act of coexistence, of living in community.

“After spending days getting to know the city and HOOP (Helping Overcome Obstacles Peru) community prior to beginning filming, we not only had practiced convivencia, but we noticed that it was an essential part of how public transportation and education came together.”

In its completed form, the documentary, fully entitled “Convivr: A Vehicle For Education,”  follows individuals in both Minnesota and Arequipa, Peru – a dual narrative that the filmmakers say highlights the universal need for transportation and infrastructure.

It will premiere on Facebook and YouTube Friday, though an on-campus premiere is still planned for next fall. Details on that event are expected to be released in August.

“We were planning on premiering on campus on April 24,” said Rader, who co-directed the project with CSB junior Charly Frisk and SJU junior Sam Black (spring only).

“The (ongoing COVID-19) pandemic meant that all of our team meetings and video production had to go remote. This led to some delays as we needed to get the software onto personal computers, balancing hard drives/video files between multiple team members and continual file sharing and exporting between members.”

But such obstacles did not deter the group from completing its work with the same purpose it always does – looking at a given issue from both a local and global perspective.

Last year’s Extending the Link documentary examined Germany’s efforts to settle over 1 million forced migrants who arrived in the country in 2015, then compared and contrasted that approach with local efforts in St. Cloud, Minnesota, which has seen a large influx in refugees arriving from Somalia.

In April, that project was honored with an Upper Midwest Emmy® Student Production Award in the College-Long Form: Non-Fiction category.

“The purpose of this duality is to demonstrate that social injustice occurs everywhere, not just developing countries,” Rader said.

The pandemic – which in March forced the cancellation of all in-person classes and events on campus at CSB and SJU for the remainder of the semester - also forced the group to cancel several fundraisers that typically occur in the spring, as well as the Act Local initiative Extending the Link typically organizes on campus to address the injustices identified in its films.

“Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, our local action has been placed on hold as we don’t know what will be possible moving forward,” Rader said.

But the film itself will finally premiere Friday. And Rader sees convivir as the theme that runs through it.

“As our interviewees reiterated, it is only through learning to live together and respecting one another that we are able to create a better society,” she said.