Donny Pangilinan on his advocacy short film: This has always been close to my heart
“Doing this is something I wouldn’t think twice about,” said actor Donny Pangilinan of the advocacy short film project he recently shot with musician-actress Nourijune Hooshmand, titled “Graduation.”
The five-minute film, written and directed by New York-based Filipino filmmaker Dean Colin Marcial, is about a young woman (Nourijune), who fell into depression after surviving human trafficking. Through the support of her brother (Donny), she was able to slowly get back on her feet.
“Graduation” is a project of Called to Rescue Philippines (CTR PH), a nonprofit organization given to rescuing minors from sex trafficking, violence, and abuse. Donny’s dad, Anthony Pangilinan, is CTR PH president.
“This has always been close to my heart ever since. We’ve been part of CTR PH since we were kids. This advocacy is very much needed especially today. Awareness is needed, and it’s growing. I think it’s very timely to have a short film that tackles this incredibly enormous issue. A lot of people are not so educated on how big a deal human trafficking actually is, and the negative impact it has on society or in people who were once abused, and just everyone in general,” he told reporters during a recent hybrid media gathering.
“When Dean agreed to direct this project and that I would be working alongside Nour, I told my dad, ‘Let’s do it! Let’s find a schedule, let’s make sure we’d come up with something that will hopefully move people and gear them toward helping this advocacy or just helping out the ones who were abused and needed a voice,” the 24-year-old actor pointed out. “I really believe that it deserves so much attention. We’re very far from where we want to be still, but we’d rather that something is being done.”
A very important work
Nourijune, who is still glowing from the critical success of her Cinemalaya film “The Blue Room,” said she considers “Graduation” “a very important work. I’m just thankful that I had the opportunity to be part of it. Everybody was so collaborative and dedicated to doing this project.”
To prepare for the film, Nour actually spent time with some of the survivors. “They were gracious enough to tell me about what they went through, and how they are recovering from their experience. I just really tried to get to know them. I asked them for the kind of music they listen to, or what stuff they like to do whenever they are feeling something,” she recalled.
“I dedicated this to one of the survivors. We have the same sign, the same haircut, and enjoy the same music. She graduated only recently, too,” Nour revealed.
“Graduation” was the brainchild of Marcial, Pangilinan and CTR PH advocacy head Abby Anciano. The three all said they found the need to bring emphasis not only to a survivor’s rescue, but to their reintegration into society as well. “We shouldn’t just stop after the rescue. ‘Yung ‘after-rescue’ rin kailangan. This project was out of frustration for me, and is one of the reasons I decided to do this,” Anthony explained.
Dean added: “The more publicized issues around human trafficking usually involved the rescue but the unsung aspect of it, involves reintegration. The words kindness and support can mean the world to someone. That’s what the film is about. It’s really the organization’s focus on reintegration and how a support system can be made available to the victim and make a difference.”
Dean, who also wrote the script, pointed out: “Something that I think I drew on—and I know Nour and Donny did, too—for this short film was my relationship with my sibling. I tried to draw strength from the support that my sister gives me. I think we each used our personal connections to really bring our own souls to the film.”
Donny agreed with Dean about “drawing a lot from our siblings. Nour and I play siblings in this film. Throughout the shoot, I was just imagining my own sister. If something happens to her or if she goes through a certain experience, what would that have been like?”
“I’m very close to my siblings as well,” Nour shared with reporters. “Sometimes, my brother would just knock on my door to ask me if I was OK or if I wanted a hug. The bond of family, knowing that someone is there for you, really helps in whatever you’re going through.”
Donny, who seemed to be as involved with CTR PH as his dad, pointed out: “A lot of people think that once a person is rescued, that’s the end of the equation. In reality, he still has people to meet, such as the experts who can guide him through that whole process of grieving and taking care of himself. While Nour talked to the actual survivors, I also went to the centers and met up with the girls.”
The actor added that the focus shouldn’t just be on the victim, but also on his family. “Most likely, they are also feeling hurt and emotional about the entire journey. I think they are going through it as well. They’re the ones trying to help the victim cope and, most of the time, they actually don’t know what to do.
“The situations presented here can relate to a lot of people, those who know people or are related to people who were victimized. They probably don’t know if there’s a certain way to cheer them (the survivors) up or motivate them to come out of a dark place. This film is very real and is equally relatable to the family or those who are around the aggrieved person.” INQ