Sunday, August 5, 2012

7/30-  Murals and Graffiti

Valparaiso: Art as a Political Landscape: Valparaiso: Art as a Political Landscape: 2012:

Valparaiso: Art as a Political Landscape: Valparaiso: Art as a Political Landscape: 2012:

I couldn’t help but notice that throughout the entirety of our trip, we kept on seeing walls upon walls of creative graffiti art that was very politically oriented.  They were most present in Santiago and Valparaiso, but were also evident in La Isla Negra and Pomaire.  From the tours that we took through the homes of Pablo Neruda, the famous poet, writer and artist, I gathered that as a member of the Communist party, he was very politically active.  It was mentioned that he was going to run for president at the same time as Salvador Allende, however, it was decided that it would be more efficient for the Communist party to align and support the Socialist Party so that Allende could become president.  This was the most efficient way to get a left leaning party member into office at that time so Neruda gave up his bid.  Pablo Neruda is evidence that artists were incredibly influential in the fervent political climate of Chile, otherwise, the military dictatorship would not have made such an effort to throw him into exile.  They also realized the power of such a medium to swing public opinion and political sentiment.  It is because of the work of Neruda and other artists that the world is able to view the historical timeline of Chile and see the emotional upheaval of the citizens.  Through film, murals, graffiti, old journalism pieces etc., we are able to put together a telling history of the Chilean story.

Many of the topics on this trip have me intrigued.  How do we rectify years of neo-liberal agenda in the political realm and undo the mistakes of the past?  Do the benefits of market pressures and competition offset the negatives of the system in educational contexts?  Perhaps Chile would be in a worse off state than now if these agendas had not been followed.  People tend to criticize what has been done and find the negative ramifications, however, we must not discount the benefits out of bias.  There are more schools than there were before to help alleviate some of the gaps that previously loomed.  Even though public education is seen as subpar and society is stratified by socio-economic status, at least the facilities exist to improve for the future.  Many places in the world don’t even have that.

It is clear that many questions have been raised by the topics addressed in this study tour and that more research needs to be done in order to understand them comprehensively. 

References for Material in this Blog

Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program. (2005). Global competence and national needs: Recommendations: Breaking the one-million-student barrier. (). Washington, DC: Lincoln Commission.
Bellei, C. (2005). The private-public school controversy: The case of chile. Harvard Graduate School of Education,
Chovanec, D., & Benitez, A. (2008). The penguin revolution in chile: Exploring intergenerational learning in social movements. Journal of Contemporary Issues in Education, 3(1), 39-57.
Frizzelle, C. (2010, May 7, 2010). 180 degrees south: Lindy, do I really have to review this movie? SLOG News and Arts, , 1.
IMDb. (2012). 180 degrees south. Retrieved 7/1, 2012, from
Larraín, C. (2012). Cinema in chile
Lawrence, R. (2010). In Lawrence R. (Ed.), Insight guide: Chile and easter island (5th ed.). London, England: APA Publications.
Pena, M. (2012). The penguins' revolution (Lecture ed.)
Spencer Global. (2012). The portal to all southern chile. Retrieved 7/25, 2012, from
Wikipedia. (2012). 180 degrees south: Conquerors of the useless. Retrieved 7/5, 2012, from

Valparaiso: Art as a Political Landscape: Valparaiso: Art as a Political Landscape: 2012:

Valparaiso: Art as a Political Landscape: Valparaiso: Art as a Political Landscape: 2012:

7/29-  Weekend Reflections on Art and Politics in Chile

Art as the political landscape in Santiago: Art as the political landscape in Santiago: 2012

Art as the political landscape in Santiago: Art as the political landscape in Santiago: 2012

7/29-  Weekend Reflections on Art and Politics in Chile

Our first weekend we took a bus with our entire class to Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar where we had a lovely lunch of fresh seafood and took in the views of the city.  The thing that struck me most about Valparaiso in particular was the color of the city!  The buildings were all painted vibrant colors that were a nice contrast to the grey of the cloudy sky.  It is a port city and used to be much busier- you can tell because it is fairly developed and there is a fine layer of sand and dust that blankets most things.  Perhaps it is smog?  They had very interesting architecture that was accentuated by historical landmarks- for instance, the building that Pinochet had erected when he moved government offices from Santiago to Valparaiso.  While cheerful and innocuous, the city has seen some turmoil, particularly during the military regime.

In Santiago and La Isla Negra, the vibe was quit different.  We visited Pablo Neruda’s home and there were so many things I loved about it.  I like the way Neruda built his home in sections- they were separate sections connected by gardens and pathways that each had their own purpose.  I like that because it seems very functional in that if you are having a certain type of day, you can walk to another area of your home- another wing- and get into a new rhythm more effectively than merely walking to another room of your house.  I love that I got to see both of his homes- one in La Isla Negra where he is buried with Matilda and the other one that was almost burned down in Santiago during the military coup of 1973.  His poetry has affected me so deeply in life that I would have come to Chile just to visit his home.

On our last day in Santiago, we went to see Pablo Neruda’s house - it was so nice but not nearly as amazing as the Isla Negra home where he is buried.  The tomb was so beautiful where he was buried with his 3rd wife, Matilda- with wild hair.  Apparently his 2nd wife was 20 years older than him and he had Matilda as his mistress.  He built his home in Santiago for Matilda and has multiple paintings and pieces of art dedicated to her such as window dressings in metal.  This is another example of how creative artifacts can serve to weave together a colorful story of the past.

7/27-  Cinema in Chile: Media, Film and Visual Effects
Carolina Larraín
Institute of Communication & Image
Universidad de Chile

One of the presentations that stood out to me over the past couple of weeks was on Chilean Cinema.  There was so much that Carolina brought up that it was difficult to write about and do her presentation proper justice.  I do know however that her lecture brought to life the importance of art in political discourse.  The media has been run by the elite in Chile for many years and many believe that democracy has been betrayed by these institutions.  From biased journalism to lack of transparency, citizens generally do not trust the journalists to be neutral.  Therefore, people turn to artists to be the real media and politicians. For instance, in Valparaiso, there is a place called Quinto Normal that acts as an outdoor museum where artists can share their work and political views for free.

Another interesting fact is that in the 1930’s, films with sound were introduced to Chile.  This had the surprising effect of limiting the audience that could understand the language of the films and therefore shrunk the audience considerably.  The film industry has always struggled in Chile, according to Carolina, to the point where it has stayed relatively small.  A small group of film stars has made it through to be significant actors in the news and political discourse however.  The World Cup of 1962 increased the number of viewers because many families bought televisions for the event.  In the 1960’s, the first film schools opened and mostly the elites could afford to attend.  There was a documentary boom about topics of social justice and other political issues.  These prove essential to our understanding of the military coup of 1973, once they were recovered from other countries that finally returned them after the military regime was no longer in power. 

The main way to watch films from the 1950’s to 1973 was in the theater where they would show the film and have discussions afterwards.  Many of these films were politically charged and carried strong messages.  Commercial film crept onto the scene and new cinemas developed.  The film industry has been able to expand at a rapid rate in recent years due to the ubiquity of online distribution and less expensive means of production.  Chilean films have increasingly been found in more and more film festivals globally and the satirical/parody genres addressing social issues have become popular.

Chile seems to have always been politically aware and active.  Films seem to have captured this sentiment in it’s many forms throughout the years and pushed people to be aware of their surroundings.  Film is a powerful tool to mobilize and inform masses about social issues and Chilean films have demonstrated this power.
7/26-  The Penguin Revolution and Student Movements
Macarena Pena y Lillo
Author "El Mayo de los Pinguinos"
MA in Communication (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)

We learned from Macarena’s presentation that the Penguin Revolution in 2006 was a student movement created by students, for students.  Along with the information from Donna M. Chovanec’s paper on The Penguin Revolution in Chile: Exploring Intergenerational Learning in Social Movements (2008), our class gathered that many of the student protests were for logistical improvements in the beginning.  Only after they had protested for a while did ideological demands begin to surface and become a part of the public discourse over the inadequate educational system.  Students were frustrated by LOCE, the laws that governed the educational system that were set in place directly before Pinochet left office.  The students wanted this revoked and replaced with a set of laws that would help students of all socio-economic backgrounds succeed in school, despite the huge financial burden that it requires in the current form.  The students occupied many schools for weeks on end and organized their demands.  They utilized the media, government and citizens to help them make their demands public discourse.  Michelle Bachelet eventually agreed to hear them out, open a round table discussion with a few key students present to talk about their issues.  The students were not happy with this proposal and declined.  Eventually the protests died down because students wanted to get back to their academic responsibilities, they were tired and little had been accomplished ideologically- though certain logistical concessions were made to them, such as reduced transportation fare. 

The media was a salient part of the visibility of this movement.  In the beginning, they treated the students as a nuisance and didn’t take them seriously.  However, as time went on, the media began to pick up on the seriousness of the students and began to listen when they spoke.  They wrote articles about their position, about the individuals involved and the fantastic organization that was occurring. 

There were a few significant events that took place that were landmark moments in the movement.  The first one was Lota on April 1st.  The students had classes on the streets and called the TV to show it.  This demonstration was not initially connected to the Penguin Revolution but eventually they came together.  The next one was Instituto Nacional- the students occupied the schools and created Fotologs on the Internet to share and communicate information.  The Fotologs were important to the students and were visited 200,000 or more times per day. 

The third event was the Colegio Altamira- where the private and exclusive schools joined the movement.  This was interesting because the privileged students didn’t have anything to complain about personally since they could afford the best schools.  However, they wanted to show solidarity with the other students that were not able to afford such a privileged education.  This was a significant milestone for the movement because it made the movement cover a broad spectrum of students instead of just the underserved. 

In conclusion, Macarena Pena found that the students felt powerless by the end.  They had fears of losing that school year and decided to stop.  However, this movement set the tone for future movements in 2011 with university students and helped spur government reform.  This movement acted as a catalyst for educational change in Chile and is an important lesson for other students to stand up for social change when it is needed. 

The visual and video footage of the Penguin Revolution stand out to me as salient pieces of this movement.  Because audiences were able to visually connect with the students, their message was carried further to reach the president.  Because there were audio and written words to challenge readers to empathize with the problems in the educational system, they were taken seriously and were listened to.  Creative and journalistic portrayals of events can have an impressive impact on public opinion, and therefore instigate politicians to act accordingly.  
7/24-  Public Education in Chile
Visit Peñalolen Lecture: Public Education in Chile
Ricardo Batarce

Today we had people from a public school district talk to us about their educational approaches- they were the superintendents, principles etc. They then they took us to the actual schools, K-12 in one public school. We saw a really nice school and it was directly across the street from a private school that was competing for students.  The students that we met sang us two songs- our group went to see the high school side of the school and the other group went to the younger students.  When we asked to see their library, they took us to see it and the library was a one room small section of the school that had few books and a bunch of tables.  Despite it being small according to North American standards, they mentioned that it was one of the best and they were very proud of it.  It was very sobering to see how tight the resources were for these students.  Will they grow up able to actively participate in global exchanges with the Net Generation?  Is this one of the side effects of the neo- liberal policies that directed educational development over the past 20 years?  

This was a very touching experience and this video that I took speaks for itself as far as I'm concerned:

7/22-  Los Andes
For our day off we went to the Andes Mountains in de maipo to visit the glacier (a glacier) and we hiked up to see it.  Brilliant really- we rented a van and then hitchhiked the rest of the way up where the van couldn’t go.  It was amazing and the snow was lovely and we saw a rainbow at the largest waterfall.  7 people stuffed into the back of a pickup truck with open views of the glacier and mountain peeks was probably the highlight of the trip thus far. I often wondered if the political climate affected the residents in the mountains since they seemed so far removed from the issues of neo-liberalism and politics.  Do they still deem it necessary to be active members of various political parties and vote?

Los Andes, Chile (Sasha Harrison, 2012)
7/19-  Asado BBQ with Michelle and Diego!

We attended a traditional Chilean BBQ at Michelle and Diego’s apartment on their rooftop- it was a blast and I truly enjoyed the experience as we ate traditional meat, the sausage, kind of small and spicy, then chicken then steak, all with a lot of red wine of course;-) We also enjoyed avocado dip with various chips and a Chilean salad of tomatoes and onions and a sauce of basil, onions and salt/pepper. One of Diego’s (Michelle’s boyfriend) friends is a professional dancer in Chile and taught us some of the moves and traditional dances- it was too much fun!

To address the theme of this blog, the form of music as an art was displayed tonight.  Along with the fantastic company and wine, traditional Chilean music had the power to enhance our experience and share a part of the creative culture by listening and dancing.  It is a part of this trip that we did not explicitly address in most of our lectures, yet that I appreciate deeply as an essential part of understanding various cultures.  So much emotion, history, and tradition can be discerned from the musical language.

Brilliant! Meet is grilling (Sasha Harrison, 2012)

7/18-  Political Changes in Chile: Dictatorship/Democracy

Dr. Francisco Javier Díaz PhD in Political Science (University of Pittsburg)
Ex-assistant of President Michelle Bachelet

Today’s lecture was from the assistant policy maker and speech-writer of Michelle Bachelet and he was brilliant. Not only was he intelligent, clever and well spoken, he was funny and charismatic, making us feel like we were on the inside making the policies and tasting the government life.  He gave us an emotional yet logical depiction of the strategies used to get his party into power with Michelle Bachelet at the head as the first woman to ever be presidenta (with an a) of Chile.  He is now a Senior Fellow at CIEPLAN and continues to be a member of the Socialist Party.  He was informative about his bias as he gave his presentation.  We were informed that many Chileans, much like other democracies, don’t trust their politicians.  Since the government has chanced so many times, even in the last 40 years with Allende up to 1973, then Pinochet as the military dictator and now to democracy with Pinera- Chileans have experienced a lot of turnover.  His presentation covered how a woman, agnostic, divorced and single mom in a morally conservative country came out as the winner of the presidential elections in 2005.  Through a very thorough campaign strategy, we could see how the party convinced Chileans to vote for her.  The fact that she was “cool”, a mom, had been imprisoned and tortured by Pinochet’s military regime, and was a loving and caring pediatrician all helped her win.  This presentation illuminated the many considerations that must be dealt with in a political campaign, especially with a distrustful public.  Democracy seems to still be a tenuous idea to many in the system as many parties still exist and alternative views still persist among citizens, some of whom agreed with Allende and Pinochet ideals.  What will happen in the future, no one knows.  We do know that Bachelet focused on educational equity for Chilean citizens and that it is a huge piece of the puzzle to fix that will take multiple and cooperative efforts to accomplish.
7/17-  Lecture: Education in Chile by Dr. Cristian Bellei PhD in Education (Harvard University)

We had the fortunate experience to attend a lecture and speak with Dr. Bellei, a researcher for CIAE (University of Chile).  The paper we read from him was about the public and private school controversy in Chilean education (Bellei, 2005).  His findings about the neo-liberal policies adopted from the Chicago Boys, of which Milton Friedman was a member, in the United States after the military coup of 1973 were astonishing. Private institutions in all levels of education have become the majority provider in Chile and public schools were seen as a last resort for parents to enroll their children.  This is a sad fact for many academics that agree that it creates a system where social mobility through educational opportunities is decreased.  If one cannot pay to attend elite private institutions, then one’s chances of success in life are limited.  One of the major providers of this private education is the Catholic Church.  There are also schools for women and other religions.  The voucher system seems to have pushed this system further into the grains of society- so many schools will accept or deny students based on factors like income, race, religion, space, scores etc.  Where policymakers thought that market competition would increase the quality of educational facilities for students, it seems that the opposite has occurred.  Faculty members have to take multiple jobs to make enough money to live, otherwise known as “taxicab” professors, because they have to travel to various places of work instead of devoting themselves to one institution and research.  So, while school is available to all members of society, there is a problem with the quality that is offered.  A PISA study that Dr. Bellei presented indicated that the 2009 inclusion index had Chile at below 50%, meaning that it is very segregated.  The neo-liberal agenda espoused by Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys during the military regime proved to have failed many members of society in Chile.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

7/15-  First Day in Chile!

I met Danielle Litak at the airport in Dallas TX yesterday on my layover as I was finishing the previous journal entry.  We had a great chat and then she found the other 8 on that flight from our class and we met before reaching our destination.  It is so lovely to finally meet everyone from my class since we have been sharing an online graduate experience over the past 1.5 years. It really contextualizes people within media and makes me appreciate the technological advances that we have today, along with the ability to connect in person.  I think both are essential- we can’t have just one or the other.  Meeting Danielle also bolstered my appreciation for people in the arts as she is an active member of AFTRA- the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, where she serves as a stunt double in Los Angeles.  Coming from a creative background in the performing and visual arts myself- I was so pleased to meet someone who was active in a different area but in the same industry as myself.  It will be interesting to see where the creative individuals from our program find their niche within the global educational paradigm.

As we all arrive in Santiago, we are all traveled out and exhausted.  But we are here and finally cozied up in a small apartment- nice and clean and on 16th floor with a great view of the Andes Mountains.  The thing that struck me most today was when we were checking in at the hostel- EVERYONE in the room, instead of socialize g with each other like I usually see at hostels especially, was wrapped up in their electronics.  It was truly bizarre and it struck me as sad that people don’t talk to each other anymore.  Why are our devices so much more interesting than people?  I’ve seen this in other parts of society but not like I did today.  It made me think that all companies and especially people on vacation should take full weekends away from technology.  So they learn to appreciate each other more- appreciate company.  Globalization and internationalization have happened so rapidly that people are sometimes sucked into the Internet zombie zone to connect with others.  This leaves one to one contact limited.

View from my apartment in Santiago, Chile

(Sasha Harrison, 2012)

7/13-  Global Exports

I just read about the wines and wildlife in Chile- of course I’m most excited about the wine;-) Malbec, Carmenere, Sauv Blanc, Merlot, Pinot Noir etc.- many of the flavors that many global palettes have become accustomed to in the United States and elsewhere.  It makes perfect sense that when the consumption of wine in Chile decreased since locals were enjoying a higher percentage of beers and cocktails- that they tailored the process of how they made Chilean wine for specific export to the US and UK.  They sweetened them up a bit and made them less tannic so that they would appeal to the Western palette.  It's very logical in the context of globalization and internationalization.  It seems inevitable that products that are shipped abroad would be edited for the foreign consumer.  Yet one could feel duped having thought they were getting the real Chilean wine experience outside of Chile!  

As far as wine and local cuisine is concerned,  I like that the Mapocho cuisine has made it back into mainstream and urban Chilean food.  Apparently, the indigenous flavors were considered unsophisticated by many of the urbanites but that approach left the food bland and unappetizing to the outside connoisseur.  The recent influx of these exquisite flavors has brought life back into urban food- along with the addition of high levels of sodium and sugar!

Traditional Grilled Corvina Fish with Sangria!

(Sasha Harrison, 2012)

6/29-  The "Tourist"

Tonight in class, we talked about study abroad and what “touring” can mean.  There is a big difference between a meaningful cultural exchange versus a party abroad.  There are also issues concerning funding available for students because it is such a costly endeavor.  Is the study abroad candidate only one that has the means to do so? What about those that cannot afford the extra expense of these programs- is it merely a tool of the wealthy for the perpetuation of existing social hierarchy?  Of course I understand that there are scholarship opportunities and grants for some students, but those are typically reserved for those with extraordinary academic accomplishments- at least at the University of Virginia they were when I attended until 2005.  The Lincoln Report as well as the other readings pointed to a need for increased study abroad participation (Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program, 2005). This may prove problematic unless specific money is dog-eared from state and national governments to support these programs and students.  Since the current student population that partakes in study abroad programs is mostly caucasian females, perhaps other demographics could be encouraged to participate as well.  The benefits can be great and are worth the investment of time and money- as long as students take the opportunity somewhat seriously and don’t merely view it as a party abroad.   Intercultural exchange has the potential to increase empathy and understanding for other cultures, which is important in an increasingly globalized and interconnected world.

Traditional Fish Soup at Liguria
(Sasha Harrison, 2012)

6/25-  Education for Change

My career choice was honored today, and I agree completely, that the way to accomplish large scale social change is through educational avenues.  On page 60 of the Chile guide, the author recommends that “the key to improvements lies in education” (Insight Guides, 2009).  It is also wise that the author interprets their multiple political views as acknowledging that while various methods can work, it can be slow and depends on great investments- that which the Chilean government seems to be willing to make.  Understanding that education is not only to help humanity survive now- but that it will be even more important for future generations- is indeed salient. 

I was also stunned that in 2002-  a census revealed that over 70% of Chileans were Roman Catholics (p. 69)!  I guess it shouldn’t surprise me- South Korea is over 50% Christian and many other nations that were inundated with Christian missionaries now have established religious followings and systems in place.  Divorce was not legalized in Chile until 2004- a sign that conservative traditions are hard to change in this closely knit society.  I enjoy that the family unit is so strong in Chile, yet am skeptical about what that really means when the paradox is that men are often known to have multiple mistresses on the side. 

6/20-  The Power of the Guide Book

I just finished the history section of the Chile Guide book and I’m reminded of a book called Paula by Isabelle Allende, the niece of Salvador Allende, that I read while living in South Korea.  This book was about a woman who had survived the 1973 military coup of Pinochet and the ousting of Salvador Allende.  It told of her experiences of working in education before becoming an author, meeting a man from California on one of her book tours in the U.S. and her eventual move to California.  Her daughter Lisa had a medical emergency while living in Europe with her fiance and she had to come live with her mother until she passed away.  It makes me emotional just thinking about the sadness of the story and it’s been two years since I read the book. I remember that the way citizens received news of what was happening during the coup was through the radio and neighbors who passed down information.  Members of the Allende party who were being tortured and killed were often smuggled to safety by brave members of society.  Those that assisted them and were caught were immediately dealt with, often with death, by the military forces under Pinochet.  This must have been an incredibly difficult time for Chilean citizens.  What strikes me after reading this history section is how the Chilean governments have changed.  They seem to oscillate between authoritarian regimes and democratic ones- and sometimes others.  It seems a very confusing and unstable political environment.  How are Chileans supposed to have faith in their government when so many have tried various methods and many times failed? 

Another interesting fact was that the first female president was elected in 2006, Michelle Bachelet, and was a socialist and this was a sure sign that Chilean citizens wanted a drastic change.  She was in charge of increasing the evenness of income distribution since many citizens were upset with this disparity.  Once she was elected, the school children protested that the education system needed more funding- these were the largest protests since the time of Pinochet and demonstrated the growing strength of the democratic system.

Another salient point that I found in the reading was that Pablo Neruda died only two weeks after the 1973 coup as he was one of the countries most talented and illuminating poets.  He was also a communist and this led the military regime to burn parts of his house and put him into exile.  I think because he was a well known and very influential artist and a member of the opposing party,  the military regime knew that he was a threat to their stability and power.  

6/12-  180 Degrees South

In preparation for our 6/14-6/29 study abroad trip to Chile, I watched a documentary called 180 degrees South by Jeff Johnson, a film about the life changing experience of going to and climbing Patagonia in Chile.  The older men in the movie were owners of the companies North Face and Patagonia that offer sports and outdoor gear.  Then the movie segued into the story of a younger man that was inspired by footage of the CEO’s and went himself.  It changed his life and he ended up staying in the area and learning how to farm.  He finds himself concerned and wanting to help so he fights for nature conservation in the area now that he has developed a personal relationship with it.  It's a very moving story about a young man finding his passion in life from an adventure.  This documentary is a reminder of the importance of the film medium to pass along perspectives and experiences to larger audiences that may be inspired as a result.  As a result of having watched this film, I am now more familiar with the "Patagonia Sin Represas" movement in Chile and other North Americans have tried to help.

Patagonia Sin Represas News

"The organization has launched a very strong Public relations campaign across Chile to fight the Endesa power company and others in the Chilean government that would destroy thousands of acres of the Baker and Rio Pascua river valleys in the Patagonia. This very misdirected attempt to solve Chile's power problems by building hydro electric dams and sending power all the way to Santiago has gained speed under President Bachelet's administration in Chile" (All Southern Chile, 2012).

180 Degrees South reminds me of the book, 3 Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin about Greg Mortenson who finds his path in life by hiking to the top of the K2 peak in Pakistan.  He decides that the area would benefit from schools so puts all of his efforts into this endeavor and succeeds in a way nobody could have imagined.  Unfortunately, not everyone approved of the way he managed the Central Asia Institute- the foundation created to manage the building of the schools, and a book came out later called 3 Cups of Deceit by Jon Krakauer.  I have not yet had a chance to read this but look forward to it. I also found my passions in life from travel in that I wanted to work with international students and solidified that desire by teaching English in South Korea for 3 years.  Now I have an unquenchable thirst to be involved in international education and help students of all ages and backgrounds reach their goals.  As a result of my travels, I have also become interested and involved with creating visual art that raises awareness about nature conservation and other social issues.  

(IMDB, 2012)

Below is a copy of a film review that I recently wrote:

180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless

By Sasha Harrison

180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless (2010), is an adventure documentary about a surfer and climber, Jeff Johnson, who finds his life veering into the doldrums.  Directed by Chris Malloy, the film traces Jeff’s decision to spice things up as he turns “180 South” and heads from Ventura, California to Patagonia, Chile for some thrills.  Inspired by footage that was found of the 1968 expedition led by the Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard with legendary rock climber and co-founder of North Face and ESPRIT outdoor clothing companies, Doug Tompkins, Jeff decided to retrace their footsteps. Instead of traveling by land, hitching a ride with a sailor, he goes by sea from Mexico and sails south along the west coast of Chile.  Held up by a dangerous breaking of the sail mast, they have to stop at Easter Island where he shows home video footage of resting, fixing the boat, fishing, surfing, climbing, and a lady adventurer, Makohe, that decides to join them on their journey.  They finally make it to their destination and encounter further trials that schedule them to climb at a perilous time when the rock of Patagonia is loose because of melted snow.  While he and his team ultimately fail to summit the final 200 ft. of Cerro Corcovado (the Corcovado volcano), the journey revealed itself to be the ultimate lesson that raised awareness about conservation and the environment.  Their lives were permanently altered as these themes took over as a motivating locus of their future endeavors.

While the overall purpose of the movie hinted at exposing the virtues of adventure to a beautiful and rugged landscape and enhancing one’s relationship to nature, at times it came off as superficial.  Let me explain.  The beginning of the documentary showed original footage of the original 1968 journey with the youthful Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins on their way to Patagonia.  It was rugged, exciting, and had an old glam feel to it that got the viewer in a nostalgic kind of mood, looking forward to an epic and historical story.  Then, the director abruptly switches to modern footage, sometimes taken with a home video camera that jostled the screen to the point of feeling queasy, and other times with professional and smooth footage that allowed the stomach to settle.   The beginning of the movie foreshadowed a historic journey to a land that had rarely been touched by the North American man.  However, it was disappointing when it gave a modern portrayal of a simulated experience.  It felt less unique, less genuine, and less adventurous because it had already been done before.  The triteness of the mirrored “adventure” left me wanting a more genuine experience.

Another aspect that contributed to the perceived superficiality was the editing of the film.  I believe the jolty clips of conversation mixed with long panoramic scenes of natural splendors, was intended to create a “documentary” type realism for the audience.  However, instead of that gritty texture so often associated with this genre, the modern, and wannabe original adventure film came off as confused.  One moment the protagonist, Jeff, is pounding nails into the boat to fix the mast as they are stranded on Easter Island (not painfully so since he met a beautiful woman and surfed in the off hours while taking in spectacular sunsets).  Then the next moment, there is a serene scene of the Easter Island statues as the waves lap methodically in the background.  Was this a positive or negative experience?  In the end it culminates into a conclusion about the actual path that led to the insights of the adventure-but during the movie, it seemed as though the only goal was to reach the top of the volcano.  The film editing could have been friendlier to the weak stomach by standardizing the shots so that they weren’t so choppy and difficult to digest.
Although there were problems that myself and other reviewers of 180 Degrees South pointed out as well, the documentary did have some highly redeeming qualities.  The director may have made some errors in the haphazard way that the movie was edited and the manner in which important themes were tacked on as a last minute thought.  However, Chris Malloy did engage with each player in the movie in a meaningful manner.  For instance, when he interviewed Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, he had them together for many parts of the film in what appeared to be an old workshop.  As a result, the audience was able to see how the two characters interacted with each other, as well as with the interviewer.  They are older now, 60’s and 70’s, and you can tell that they shared a lot of history together from the shared stories, memories and jokes.  This allowed the audience to imagine how those men must have sarcastically and argumentatively bantered their way down the South American continent in their Ford E-Series Econoline Van with surfboards and climbing equipment littering their vehicle.  We can see firsthand how their 1968 adventure must have proved so significant in their lives that it moved them to start their own companies that became ubiquitous and successful.  Initially broke and adventurous, these men inspired the wanderlust that moved Jeff to take a break from his dreary California job and pursue a lifelong dream.  In this way, the director achieved his goal of capturing the point of views and intricacies of the risk-taking individuals that were pivotal to the point of this story. 
Along with the directing, the impromptu script that appeared and dialogue that was captured was also interesting and revealed valuable insight into the character’s lives.  For instance, "These people have shown me that if you love a place, you have a duty to protect it. And to love a place, you have to know it first," (180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless) says a character in the film towards the end.  These deep words almost came as an afterthought to the original theme of the film, yet they still lingered as an important takeaway when it was finished.  Regardless of the fact that the “life-lessons” exposed themselves in a serious manner as a tacked on extra to the film, they were still meaningful and thoughtful.  Perhaps they would have seemed more salient if they had been interwoven into the body of the documentary as a purposeful thread.  That being said, the dialogue of the film was mostly realistic, since there were many interviews and candid segments, and they fit well with the overall documentary theme. 
The plot was neither great nor horrific.  It wasn’t necessarily inventive or creative in a standout or particularly memorable way, but it wasn’t weak or boring either.  Yes, the words and dialogue seemed credible since Jeff was just a normal guy and an adventurer out in the wilderness trying to make his way down the coast.  What kind of credentials do you really need to be credible in this scenario?  Perhaps the fact that the CEO’s of a few very successful companies were interviewed added credibility to the overall movie and inspired folks to watch it, since people often like to view the inside life of wealthy individuals.  The main surprise of the movie was that Jeff and his crew failed to reach the top of the Corcovado volcano.  It was sad that he never reached his goal, yet the writers assuaged this wound by focusing instead on the positive outcomes of the trip such as an enlightened mind for environmental conservation and a new love of the Chilean land.
Considering that this was a documentary and not a Hollywood film full of special effects, the costumes and clothing, as well as set choices fit the movie.  The characters that were interviewed, Yvon and Doug, had the most flexibility in choosing their style for the movie in a way that truly represented who they were.  They chose casual attire that one would expect from an outdoorsy type individual.  This styling, along with their choice of interview location- the rustic woodshop- contributed to a realistic and climber/surfer ambiance of the film.  These were far from your suit and tie wearing businessmen and CEO oriented type people.  They were portrayed as relaxed and casual, a demeanor that fit well with the chosen set.  The backgrounds were believable and of course Mother Nature and all her majesty won the best scenery award.  Nobody can argue that the sunsets over the ocean, snowy peaks of the Patagonia region; cliffs of Easter Island and rivers of southern Chile as portrayed in this film were anything less than breathtaking.  These scenes were practically characters in and of themselves.  One couldn’t ask for better scenery for the cinematography.
Last but not least, the music was appropriate to the surfer and climber scene.  Clips of music by M. Ward, Andrew Bird and Modest Mouse were incorporated into the documentary in a way that gave it some appreciated character.  Popular music among this crowd, it illuminated the attitude and vibe often associated with coastal and mountainous sports milieus.  The edgy guitars along with the indie-emo riffs gave the film some credibility as a legitimate source for telling this story from a climber’s perspective.  Upbeat and serene at the same time, the music flowed well with the ever changing pace of the film and flow of the scenes.  Overall, it was a pleasant soundtrack. 
Though I would recommend this film to friends as an interesting and somewhat educational film, one thing that I wish the film had delved into a bit further was the political landscape of Chile.  I was forced to seek outside reading in the Insight Guides: Chile and Easter Island in order to fulfill my curiosity on these matters that innately affected the environmental and conservation issues that were faced in the documentary.  A background overview of these political issues could have offered a great deal of credibility to the film.  It could have displayed thorough research and added to the comprehension of the issues that a laymen watching the film may not consider, and could therefore draw faulty conclusions.  It is an injustice to skim over deeper rooted issues, though I suppose this could be seen as an introductory tool to instigate further analysis by those that care to get involved in the causes portrayed. 
On a closing note offered with a caveat, the 180 Degree South documentary was viewed from the eye of a student who would soon be traveling there for a study tour.  From this point of view, along with the background knowledge gained from reading the Insight Guides: Chile and Easter Island (2010) book, I was fascinated with the rugged beauty seen through the lens of a video camera and from the pictures from the guidebook.  However, I also understand that there are so many complications and issues that were never touched upon in either source.  Issues of educational history, policy and growth were lightly touched upon in the guidebook, yet further analysis of these issues are needed to understand the complexities of a unique culture through the eyes of an outsider.  If anyone is able to help offer assistance to another country, it is my belief that one must also help locally first.  In order to offer effective help, one must be aware of how issues are framed within other cultures, not just how they are contextualized within their own environments.  Chile has some geographic treasures that I agree should be preserved, but we must also consider how this conservation can be done in the best way for indigenous people.  If outsiders buy the land for preservation but then scare away investors and businesses from Chile, how is this helping their economy?  Do locals get to use the conserved land as their own?  Can we justify this type of aid if indigenous people are compromised?  At the end of the day, Chileans need to have the final say in how their country is handled by their own citizens, as well as how their land is used by those from the outside.


Frizzelle, C. (2010, May 7, 2010). 180 degrees south: Lindy, do I really have to review this movie? SLOG News and Arts, 1.
IMDb. (2012). 180 degrees south. Retrieved 7/1, 2012, from
Lawrence, R. (2010). In Lawrence R. (Ed.), Insight guide: Chile and easter island (5th ed.). London, England: APA Publications.
Wikipedia. (2012). 180 degrees south: Conquerors of the useless. Retrieved 7/5, 2012, from

6/5-  Introduction: "Chile: Youth, Public Education and the Challenges of Globalization"

As a part of the graduate program at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, a study abroad component was incorporated as an essential learning experience for students in the Global Studies in Education program.  Dr. Cameron McCarthy and two PhD candidates, Michelle Castro and Christian Cabalin, designed and organized our study abroad trip to Santiago, Chile and surrounding locations.  We focused on topics about Chilean youth, public education and the challenges of globalization.  We examined the current educational paradigm in Chile in relation to history, economics, media and political movements while taking into consideration the main stakeholders.  Many of our lectures from top experts were about these topics as well as the creative mediums that helped determine the current Chilean path in global contexts.  This blog includes my interpretations of select readings, lectures and trips that helped build a comprehensive understanding of the Chilean educational system and the actors that paved the way for the contemporary Chilean milieu.  Ideas and direct words are taken from a journal that I kept during my travels.  My main interest is how creative individuals and journalists helped shape Chilean politics through public art and journalism forms.  These may include any forms such as audio, visual, media, murals, radio, television, etc.

(Google Images, 2012)