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Campus & Community Student Features

Extending the Link to premiere latest documentary as part of Scholarship and Creativity Day

When the Extending the Link team were brainstorming ideas for the group’s annual documentary film, Maeve Miley thought back to a book she’d read in class during her sophomore year at the College of Saint Benedict.

“Another one of the co-directors and I took a global health class that year,” said Miley, now a senior and ETL’s creative co-director for the 2023-24 academic year. “We read a book by Amy Moran-Thomas entitled Traveling With Sugar: Chronicles of a Global Epidemic. It looked at diabetes in Belize and the impact of a lack of access to resources and technology for the population there.

“I’d never thought of diabetes as a social justice issue before, and we talked about how when we were seniors it would make a perfect topic for an ETL documentary.”

Indeed, by casting their gaze on the community of San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico – the nation’s southernmost and poorest state – the ETL team has put together “¿Dónde Vive?” (English translation ‘Where does it live?’).

The film examines the impact diabetes has had on a region where Coca Cola from a local bottling plant (which multiple accounts state holds a long-standing contract to use 300,000 gallons of water per day) is often easier to obtain than clean drinking water.

Members of the ETL team traveled to the region this past January to conduct interviews and additional research. The resulting documentary will have its premiere at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater on the SJU campus as part of CSB and SJU’s 24th annual Scholarship and Creativity Day celebration.

“I hope the film shows how health is not only physical, and how an individual’s physical state isn’t always a result of their own actions,” said junior Emily Cavanaugh, ETL’s operations co-director. “There are a lot of additional factors that come into play.”

Extending the Link is a non-profit, student-founded and student-run group that creates short documentary films dealing with under-reported global social justice issues. In all, Miley and Cavanaugh said 33 CSB and SJU students had a hand in making this year’s project a reality.

“Every member of the team, whether their work is seen on-screen in the documentary or through social media and marketing, put in so much effort to help make this possible,” Cavanaugh said. “Everyone had to come together to make this as special as it could be.”

Miley hopes the film can shine additional light on an issue that local activists have already been making headway in trying to address.

“We didn’t discover this issue and we’re not fixing it,” she said. “All these activists on the ground locally have been making progress in leaps and bounds. Our goal was to uplift their voices. But we don’t want the audience to feel like the issue has been resolved.

“We want them to come away with a sense of hope, but not a sense of apathy. There is still a lot of work left to be done.”

Indigenous artist Flavio Anxel of Chiapas, Mexico. Photo by Ben Hissam.