Artist: Myhraliza Aala
Brightside is a 14 minute, drama/coming of age, narrative short, however, I have submitted the trailer with the hope you'll consider the short. The film follows Nikola, a college student who is dealing with her suicidal father, while combating her own depression. She is torn between her need to respect her family’s privacy and her need to seek outside help, as encouraged by her roommate. As a Filipino American, sharing such private information with anyone outside of the family is considered shameful. Nikola must determine how to face her demons before it’s too late.
Having my own personal experience with depression and recognizing that mental health issues were rising by 24% across the country (2019), Brightside was created as I believe it could help pave some positive light in how self-identifying and reaching out when struggling can be beneficial. Some States have passed legislation in the summer 2019, where high school students are now able to take a mental health day in order to respond to the mental health crisis, one of which was the State of Oregon, where this project was filmed; with the highest suicide rate among the ages of 10-24 in the country, according to data from the state of Health Authority,(US News, July 21, 2019). Brightside is a story of hope during times of darkness. My purpose in making this film was two fold: 1) to help decrease the stigma of mental health and seeking support through counseling or other resources 2) to let the Asian community know that they are not alone and it’s okay to ask for help.
We met our short term goal in submitting this short to film festivals and had a successful run in the 2020-21 festival season. The long term goal was to a) make this into a feature b) to collaborate with University campuses and utilize the film as a learning tool, coupled with speaking engagements that would provide a unique and engaging way to talk about mental health. We initiated this on the Whittier campus this past spring and would like to continue capacity building on more campuses, but have not had the opportunity to bring forth this story to more audiences.
One of the lessons learned in the film festival process is that sharing a story about mental health and suicide with a hopeful resolution in a short amount of time is challenging – because mental health and suicide are complex. However the intent was to create a story where mental health and suicide could be safely and openly be discussed without any stigma of shame. While strides have been made to promote the importance of mental health, it’s still a hard topic for many and there’s more work to be done.
My hope is that Brightside can change the stigma around mental health and encourage people to reach out when they are struggling. I hope that when people watch Brightside, they can look around and see that they are not alone, that there is help for those who are suffering, and reaching out for help is important and welcomed.