The event was over-subscribed and we had to turn people away! That said, it served as a great platform for the speakers and attendees to connect in person. Check out highlights from our discussions on mental illness in cinema:
The UP Behavioral Science Society hosted the Samu’t Sari Shorts: A Film Forum on Filipino Mental Health on Saturday, with screenings of Arjanmar Rebeta’s “An Saidt na Planeta,” Josef Gacutan’s “Wag Mo ‘Kong Kausapin,” and Arby and Tin Larao’s “Ang Meron sa Wala.” These are some of the event’s highlights.
The forum includes small group and panel discussions with renowned academics from the University of the Philippines Manila’s Department of Behavioral Sciences, with the goal of analyzing the films via a behavioral sciences perspective.
The protagonist in Arjanmar H. Rebeta’s film An Sadit na Planeta (The Little Planet), which stars the filmmaker himself, finds himself alone on a little planet named Planet I, where he is woken by a strange voice. If just for himself, Rebeta sees this film as a love letter: the COVID-19 epidemic has caused us to withdraw to our own small worlds, and Rebeta wants to offer a reminder that we are stronger than we think.
Rebeta pointed out in a group discussion with Prof. Enrico Baula, senior professor at UP Manila, that when grave circumstances limit our access to support networks, we tend to ignore checking in on ourselves. Finally, the filmmaker described the picture as “a movie of liberation, regardless of whether there is a pandemic or not,” aimed at anybody who has ever felt trapped, even simply inside themselves.
The second film, Josef Gacutan’s ‘Wag Mo ‘Kong Kausapin (2018), is a short film that tells the narrative of an old father wanting to mend his connection with his estranged son, but a mysterious black figure stands in his way. The film explores the widening chasm between a father and his son, which is exacerbated by the old man’s mental health issues. Its goal is to help people understand these concerns. The film was nominated for Best Short Film at Cinemalaya 2019 and also for Best Short Film at Gawad Urian and the Academy of Arts and Sciences (FAMAS). While studying law, Gacutan is now developing her first full-length feature film.
Prof. Diane Monsada moderated the debate, which focused on how families contribute to mental health treatments and why communication within these relationships is critical in dealing with our own mental health issues. Because Filipino culture stresses “pakiramdaman,” or feeling around for another person’s feelings rather than confronting one’s own troubles, there is a need to address situations when the demons inside us are frequently dismissed or put behind covers.
The last film in the forum was Arby Larao and Christine Larao’s Ang Meron Sa Wala (2020), directed by award-winning team Arby and Christine Larao. It tells the story of a dad who brazenly abandons his first-born kid in the hopes of giving him a better life. After several years, he is interrogated by an inquisitive documentary filmmaker. It’s about reuniting and comprehending the many approaches to discovering the truth in each narrative. The Austin Asian American Film Festival, the Atlantic International Film Festival, and Cinemalaya 2020 have all chosen the film as an Official Selection.
Prof. Andrea Martinez led a session in which they discussed the significance of Filipino values such as self-sacrifice, understanding, resilience, and forgiveness. In the journey of the father’s battle to forgive himself and the son’s yearning for reconnection, it’s critical to accept the truth that in order to go forward, one must recognize one’s feelings and previous errors. Larao created the video in the goal of answering unresolved problems, but emphasized the significance of dealing with own difficulties before relaying other people’s tales.
The directors’ personal connections to all three pieces led to complex, cathartic discussions on recovery and what mental health involves in the Philippines. When asked for guidance on how artists should approach generating personally unpleasant work, Arby Larao advised them to absorb the anguish they are experiencing and utilize the art they create as a way to release it. “Mahalaga ka,” Rebeta said to the 63 people in the audience, as the day came to a close.
The following is information on the event: UP Behavioral Science Society organized Samu’t Sari Shorts: A Film Forum on Filipino Mental Health in collaboration 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 UPM Peer Empowering Peers Society co-sponsored the event. The event’s media partners,, Sine Liwanag, and The Philippine Online Student Tambayan, deserve special recognition.