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South of the border- Film Analysis

Social media has been a great influencer in this present reality. This current generation has been depending so much on the social media to the extent of believing all the things they have been reporting. Recently, a certain new report of a local station about the ‘mysterious disease’ immediately got the attention of the people. The said province in which the disease was found is Pangasinan. After a few moments, a hashtag trended, people were tremendously scared concluding that a prediction was fulfilled. This is an example of how mass media has fed informations to its audiences. Later on, they found out that it was a skin disease which can be cured. Facebook, twitter and instagram are just some of the social networking sites that communicate news and most of the Filipinos are subscribed to them. Imagine how fast these news travel just by clicking the post or tweet button. That button has been an empowerment for an ordinary person to tell the world what is happening. Social media, specifically, the current news programs are the source of our knowledge regarding the current economic status of our country, current social issues which affect our country and other aspects related to the Philippines. A primary reason why Filipinos are really into social media is that they want to be updated and be a part of the hot issues.

The film “South of the Border” exhibits how the mass media influenced the minds of the people. At the start of the film, newscasters are telling the audiences that a certain dictator chews coca everyday. They were pronouncing it like cocoa and considered it as a joke. They said that the leader was a drug addict. Hugo Chavez is the president of Venezuela. He won the 1997 presidential race to a Ms. Universe, in the film the race was coined the Beauty and the Beast. Even though he was imprisoned, the Venezuelan people still believed and elected for him. He aims to fight against corruption and economic inequity. He did what he can to fulfill his promises to the people of Venezuela. However, the US government announced that they are concerned about Venezuela and controlled the media, mostly private media. A businessman in Venezuela is believed to be fit for the position. Chavez claimed that the US government has 3 motives. One of which is oil. Second and third are Saddam and Iraq respectively. As shown in the film, Venezuela is the third largest supplier of petroleum. A coup for Chavez was formed. The media and other known printing press have been communicating false information about Chavez. Many people died due to numerous killings. Chavez was captured and imprisoned. A new leader is seated but it is believed that he is a puppet of the US government. The prices of oil and petroleum products, as described in the film, dramatically went down. Hugo Chavez went back to his position due to the insistent public demand of his supporters even the military. The newspapers, news stations and other well-known media companies apologized for the false statements they released.

The director, also the narrator and interviewer, Oliver Stone visited other countries in the Latin America. He went to Bolivia and met the president, Evo Morales. Coca leaves is different from cocaine, contrary to what the US citizens believe. Coca will be a drug if it is mixed with other chemicals. Oliver Stone even chewed a few leaves of coca. This product of Bolivia is like a stimulant similar to caffeine. Next stop is Argentina with Cristina Kirchner. In Argentina, there have been five presidents who ruled in just two weeks. She is also the only female leader among the presidents of the Latin America. Her husband, Nestor Kirchner is the ex-president of the Argentina. She shared that unemployment and poverty in Argentina is spread all over the country. his husband also shared that Bush claims that war is the answer to revitalize the economy. Fernando Lugo in Paraguay was also interviewed by Stone. He is a bishop who entered the politics. Another country that he visited is Brazil. Lula da Silva is the president of Brazil. What he wants is for them to be treated equally. He shared that Argentina and Brazil have been trading in their own currency. He also told Stone that all their debts are paid off. The second to the last country Stone visited is the Cuba ruled by Raúl Castro. And last but certainly not the least, Ecuador. Like what Silva said, Rafael Correa also aspires for equality. He is worried about the military base of the US in Ecuador.

It is quite amusing that a filmmaker would have the courage to do things like this. He aimed to let the people know what kind of leaders these people are. Who are they, really? Are they really dictators? Are our perceptions about them true? What is the current status of each government? Stone showed their point of views regarding the media perceptions about them. The film exposes several issues regarding the conflict between Bush and the Latin American presidents. Hugo Chavez is greatly emphasized on the film. Those presidents in the south are friends. Kirchner even showed a picture of them during an inauguration. This film basically emphasizes the media’s role to what happened to these countries and their presidents. Mass media has been showing and telling a lot of audiences about what is happening in these countries. Graber (2009) claimed that mass media are “powerful guardians” to people because Americans believe that media should inform them about the current happenings in the government. During the coup of Chavez, mass media is the main influencer to the behavior of the Venezuelans. They have been feeding the people’s minds with false information about Chavez. The New York Times even apologized for their statement during the coup. Stone described these events as ‘deeply troubling’. At one point, the US government hosted the people involved in the coup, and then they were not involved in the coup. They also stated that there was a resignation not a coup. This, for me, is entirely confusing.

The first issue introduced is about the use of drugs by Chavez. The reporters told the audiences how the “dictator” chewed coca leaves from Bolivia. They referred to him as a drug addict. This is a case in which the media showed how they communicated false information. As I have mentioned in the summary above, coca is just a stimulant like caffeine. They also called Morales as “Evil Morales” during news segments or frames. These informations are fed to the minds of people. Eventually, these affect the views of people. For the lack of decipher, people will believe what newscasters say, whether truth or not.

Chavez in our country is somehow like our late president and now a mayor of Manila, Joseph Estrada. He captured the minds of the people in his presidency. With a slogan of ‘Erap para sa masa’, poor people developed the like for him. They loved him for being concern with the poor. He gave them hope. But after being impeached on the second People Power Revolution, he still won the mayoral election in Manila. Why is this happening? Are we even looking back in the past? I think these are because of our power to speak; the freedom we have empowers us to create our own version of the truth. But this is absurd; each and every one of us deserves and has the right to know the truth, the real truth. We need to decipher whether the media are telling the truth or they are hiding something from us.

Another issue present in the film was about the global capitalism. As stated by Robinson (2008), “The US state is the key instrument of the global capitalist system reproducing, or seeking to reproduce, the global capitalist system and defend the interests of global capital over national capital, and over the globally repressed and exploited sectors and those that would oppose the global capital system” (p. 9). The price of petroleum in Venezuela is relatively high during the time of Chavez but went down after he was imprisoned. This is the primary motive why they hated Chavez. The Bush administration wanted the oil residue in Venezuela since it is a major source of some of their refineries. The lowering of prices in Venezuela will give way to global capitalists. They will import low prices for petroleum which is definitely good for them, obviously. Another controversy is in Bolivia wherein they prevent people from getting water from rain. The water prices are expensive and the monopoly of water is getting concerned about people getting water for free. These are just some of the examples of the growing capitalism in this world. We are surrounded with capitalists aiming for the betterment of their business, some, not considering the fact about poverty and other social issues. In the Philippines, Meralco and Maynilad are some examples of monopolists. Recently, there is an issue regarding the increase of prices in the power supply. Many people are complaining about the current increase. Capitalists’ main goal is to have profits and to increase their wealth.

The president of Argentina, Kirchner also the former first lady, is the only female person interviewed among the Southern American continent. She claimed that women are always asked about their clothes, jewelries and other things but men are never asked about the same things. Well, media is one of the reasons why we have this notion about women. Sometimes, they show unrealistic and wrong view of women in the society. Women are always described and shown as fashionable, bossy, pushy and extravagant. Men are never like that. In sociology, this is a feminist view. In this certain part inequality arises. Another reason is that maybe because we live in a patriarchal type of community. This gender inequality must be put to a stop. As a woman, this inequality reflects the current perception of people on women. Social media and mass media itself is pervasive enough to affect and influenced the views of people regarding women and their function in the society.

The president of Brazil told Stone in his interview that they were worthless; Americans are worthy same with the Europeans but not them. The Marxist view of Sociology shows that there are two classes the oppressed and the oppressor. In this case the oppressed is the Latin America. There is inequality between them. Lula just wants to be treated equally as the United States. There is a growing gap between the US government and the Latin American government.

As I view the role of social media or mass media to influencing the views of people to the presidents of the South America, I wondered if the mass media in our country behaves like them. Are our local networks and print media controlled by our government? Are they somehow feeding us false statements regarding the social issues? Do they have biases on the social issues present in this country? These questions are running on my mind right now. According to Gitlin (2003), people are pressed to depend on media too much to bear with the change in this world. My fellow Filipinos are consistently watching news, listening to radio programs and opening their social networking sites accounts. Due to that, they are being updated every hour of the day. The media always create a notion about everything. This information is being fed to us and then creates a so-called truth. The media can also fool and confuse our minds just by showing us ads and commercials. We are now trapped in a world which is shaped by the media. And we are living in a world full of lies, though I am not saying that all that we know are lies. But generally speaking, the media has contributed a lot of benchmarks and notions in our world. They can manipulate our minds.

“You can fool some of the people all of the time or all of the people part of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time”.

-Fidel Castro.

References:

Gitlin, T. (2003). The Whole World is Watching: Mass Media in the Making & Unmaking of the New Left. California, United States of America: University of California Press.

Graber, D. A. (2009). Mass Media and American Politics (8th ed.). United States of America: SAGE. (Original work published 1980).

Haris III, W. E. (2010, October 6). South of the border documentary film review. Retrieved from http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/Article_61299.shtml

Reuters (2007, October 28). Fidel Castro pokes fun at George W. Bush. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/10/28/us-cuba-castro-idUSN2843263920071028

Robinson, W. (2008). Understanding global capitalism. The development round table series, 1-26