SAMU’T SARI SHORTS: A FILM FORUM ON FILIPINO MENTAL HEALTH — HIGHLIGHTS
As the concluding event of this year’s mental health month celebration, UP Behavioral Science Society recently held Samu’t Sari Shorts: A Film Forum on Filipino Mental Health, which featured screenings of Filipino short films “An Sadit na Planeta” by Arjanmar Rebeta, “Wag Mo ‘Kong Kausapin” by Josef Gacutan, and “Ang Meron sa Wala” by Arby and Tin Laraño.
The forum, which aimed to analyze the films through a behavioral sciences lens, also included small group and panel discussions with esteemed professors from University of the Philippines Manila’s Department of Behavioral Sciences.
An Sadit na Planeta (The Little Planet, 2021), dir. Arjanmar H. Rebeta
In An Sadit na Planeta, which stars the director himself, the protagonist finds himself alone on a small planet called Planet I, where he is awakened by a mysterious voice. Rebeta considers this film a love letter, if only for himself: the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to retreat to our own little planets, and Rebeta wanted to create a reminder that we are stronger than we realize.
In the group discussion with Prof. Enrico Baula, senior lecturer at UP Manila, Rebeta called attention to the fact that as dire circumstances curb our access to our support systems, we also begin to neglect checking up on ourselves. Ultimately, the director deemed the film “a story about freedom, regardless if there’s a pandemic or not,” made for every person who has ever felt stuck, even just within themselves.
Rebeta is a Bikolano photographer, filmmaker, and recipient of “Harvest of Honors” Award for Cinema by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Film Ambassador by Film Development Council of the Philippines, and Indie Bravo Award by Inquirer Philippines. His film An Sadit na Planeta recently won the NETPAC Jury Prize and Special Jury Prize in this year’s Cinemalaya Film Festival.
‘Wag Mo ‘Kong Kausapin (2018), dir. Josef Gacutan
The second film, ‘Wag Mo ‘Kong Kausapin (2018) is a short film directed by Josef Gacutan which depicts the story of an elderly man trying to repair his relationship with his estranged son, but a mysterious black figure gets in his way. The film deals with the growing disparity of a father and son relationship that is further compounded by the elderly man’s mental health struggles. It seeks to help people empathize with these issues. The film won Best Short Film at Cinemalaya 2019 and was also nominated for Best Short Film at Gawad Urian as well as the Academy of Arts and Sciences (FAMAS). Gacutan is currently producing her first full-length feature film while studying Law.
In the discussion hosted by Prof. Diane Monsada, there is an emphasis on how families contribute to mental health interventions and why communication within these relationships is paramount in addressing our own mental health struggles. There is a need to address the instances wherein the demons within us are often invalidated or shoved beneath covers because of how Filipino culture emphasizes “pakiramdaman” or feeling around for another person’s emotions rather than being confrontative of one’s issues.
Ang Meron Sa Wala (Beyond Nothing, 2020), dir. Arby and Christine Laraño
Ang Meron Sa Wala (2020), directed by award-winning duo Arby Laraño and Christine Laraño, was the last film shown in the forum. It centers on a man who unapologetically abandons his first-born son in the hopes that it could provide his child with a better life. After many years have passed, an inquisitive documentary filmmaker interrogates him. It is about reconnecting and understanding the possible ways of uncovering the truth in every story. The film is an Official Selection in the Austin Asian American Film Festival, Atlantic International Film Festival, and Cinemalaya 2020.
Arby and Christine Laraño have produced films that have been officially selected and won awards in several Film Festivals. They also won Best Director and the Jury Prize Award in Singkuwento International Film Festival 2019 and Pelikultura: The Calabarzon Film Festival. Their other film, Liwanag, was also awarded the Outstanding Film and the Outstanding Direction Award.
In the discussion held by Prof. Andrea Martinez, they gave importance to the power of Filipino values such as self-sacrifice, understanding, resilience, and forgiveness. In the journey of the father’s struggles to forgive himself and the son’s need for reconnection, it is essential to come to terms with the fact that one must acknowledge their feelings and past mistakes in order to move on. Laraño also made the film in the hopes of resolving unanswered questions, but highlighted the importance of resolving issues within oneself before telling stories of other people.
All three shorts had particularly personal meanings to the filmmakers, giving way to nuanced, cathartic conversations on healing and what mental health entails in the Philippine context. When asked for advice on how artists should navigate making personally painful art, Arby Laraño urged artists to process this pain that they carry, and use the art they do as an opportunity to let the pain go. To cap off the afternoon, Rebeta told all 63 members of the audience, “Mahalaga ka”—you are important.
Samu’t Sari Shorts: A Film Forum on Filipino Mental Health was organized by UP Behavioral Science Society in partnership with Development Studies Society, Enlighten Philippines, UP PsychSoc, U.P. Cineastes’ Studio, UP Health Sciences and Pre-Medicine Society, YEARN, CAMP Student Council, Little Hands: Isko with Unicef, PUP Psychology Students Association, Pharmakon (UP College of Pharmacy), UPM Indayog Dance Varsity, UP Manila-OMAKE, UP Organization for Shiftees and Transferees, UP Sigma Alpha Nu Sorority Manila and sponsored by Whisked, S A T O, bakerist.ph, Likhabi, Threadsetter.ph, Snuggle Society PH, Bingle Up, Safe and Sound Scents, and FILI. The event was co-presented by UPM Peer Empowering Peers Society. Special thanks to the event’s media partners, Asian Film Festivals, Sine Liwanag, and The Philippine Online Student Tambayan.