Review: 13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons WhyThere is no sensible way of talking about assault, victimization and suicide – there is only the matter of fact way to address these problems and the new Netflix show does just that.

Based on the bestselling YA novel by Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why the series, is elegantly shot and performed. It is focused on a group of teenage students dealing with the suicide of one of their own, the show travels easily through past and present scenarios. As a viewer you’re engaged with each emotion Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) and Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) are feeling and you’re left wanting a friend like the wise Tony (Christian Navarro) who will protect your secrets and honor your memory.

It is no secret that Hannah Baker commits suicide. What is yet to be determined is why. As depicted in the preview, Hanna Baker is dead – you can hear her voice hauntingly telling you that she is. You can see her face and Clay’s reaction when she says that the tape he’s listening to is the first of 13 tapes that list the reasons why she’s dead – true to the tone set on the preview, the show opens with Hanna Baker’s voice and the introduction to the tapes that reveal the reasons why she committed suicide. Placing the blame on each student that are mentioned in each one of them. But why does she blame them? What happens next is a slew of unimaginable happenings in teenagers’ lives that not only opens the door to traumas, but addresses the behavioral signs every parent or educator should pay attention to, and most importantly, it showcases the grief and love every parent of a child who dies or commits suicide goes through. It’s raw, emotional and educational all at once.

While slow paced (which I sometimes found infuriating) it is with purpose: there is a reason why there’s no rushing into the reality of things. In real life these issues don’t happen as quickly as one may think. It’s a buildup of everything and anything. As Hannah goes on to tell us, there is a start to her thoughts of suicide and she continues to narrate, she points out that every little thing counts – be it towards life or against it.

Along with mortality, the show also addresses rape, consent and the murky waters a teenager has to navigate to understand what it really means to be in a healthy relationship with another person. It addresses survivor’s guilt. Another thing that it addresses is the ongoing issue with teenagers today, especially since so many parents still don’t know how to speak to their children about sex, relationships and most importantly: consent. I did find the show lacking to address the issue properly since consent is a responsibility for both males and females; they both have to consent to have sex with one another – it’s not just the guy who has to make sure the girl wants to have sex.

The issue of sexual identity is also addressed here. There are plenty of characters who are gay, some are presented as ‘matter of fact’ others are presented as still struggling with their identity and do whatever it takes to protect their ‘secrets’. The issues teenagers face: sexuality, depression, anxiety, bullying, drunk driving, societal and peer pressures, self identity and academic responsibilities are a huge part of this show as it is in our daily lives. These issues drive the characters actions, choices and it affects them all in different ways. Like I mentioned before, the show is elegantly performed, directed and shot. Each episode is riddled with emotion that will cause you to feel everything its characters are feeling. It does a great job at not shying away from the uncomfortable topics and it addresses the complexities of victimization and predator like behavior with an equal complex view of it all – it is never black and white when it comes to these things.

But it’s not all heavy, within the heavy topics dealt with in the show; there is a tender awkward teenage love story. Similar to the awkward one we’ve all experienced in our youth – with misunderstood intentions and unsaid words that lead to further confusion and decisions made under duress and ignorance.

I highly recommend people to watch this show because it tells more than just one story. It tells a complex story about parents, teenagers, educators and life itself – and since I don’t want to give much of plot line away, so go stream it now.

I further recommend, as a survivor of sexual assault, child sexual abuse, as well as survivor of a suicide attempt – that if you have these feelings, to speak to someone about it – to be clear about your emotions, however hard they may be. There is no shame in being a victim, there is no shame in being depressed, and there is no shame in having dark emotions – but please, speak to someone because suicide is not the answer. There is light at the end of the dark tunnel you’re passing through at the moment.

For help please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline any time 1-800-273-8255 (US) or if you’re outside of the States check this list of suicide prevention websites in your country: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html.

Electric Blue

I’ve been working on a few things, one of them being this short story about love lost, found and peace within….here is an excerpt of Electric Blue, the short story/essay I’m giving out for free

“As the years have gone by I still think of him. I wondered why I was given such an amazing love for such a short period of time…or if it was wonderful at all…I wondered why and how his heart became filled with so much hate…

Since then, I have felt myself falling in love with someone who declared admiration, desire to share a life with me, but that love was not as deep – it was a cautious feeling that I knew was going to leave me with nothing. As I said the words I felt this new person gearing up to disappear as well, and my feelings were not mistaken. While he said he wanted to ‘explore his feelings’ for me he left my life in such a speed that it would rival The Flash.

Still, until this day I haven’t felt the same way I felt those two weeks I spent with him. For years I hadn’t felt electric nor had I seen blue, I haven’t fully recovered…but I have discovered that it is when I’m in the ocean that I feel free.”

You can download the short story here: Electric Blue

Finding the good where it all (seems to be) is bad

DISCLAIMER: It is important that you explore treatment options that are good for you and pay attention to how it’s working for you.  I am not a clinical psychologist and am solely relating my experience with my own depression and how it’s working for me.

Let’s face it, with today’s political climate there’s been a surge of anxiety, depression and anger across the country. Depression however, is nothing new in our society – it’s something I’ve struggled with for most of my adult life and at one point, depression along with its vile cousin anger almost ruined my life.

It was 2003 and I was diagnosed with PTSD related depression – stemming from traumas I experienced as a child and young adult. I had suicidal thoughts and even attempted to take my life at one point. It has been a very hard, rocky and often dark road towards recovery. While I still experience myself feeling incredibly depressed I have to say that my outlook in life is more positive these days than what it was a few years ago. What did I do?

One of the first steps I took in order to not let these crippling feelings continue to rule my life was recognize there was a problem with myself. Many people don’t know what’s happening to them and therefore don’t know they need help, and often refuse any assistance that their friends and family might offer. It’s not easy, for years I didn’t know there was something wrong with me or my extremely negative behavior. I labeled it as being “tough” and excusing as a tool that was very much needed to survive in a city like New York. There were moments of clarity though when I knew that I was not right with the world and what was in it, but those moments dissipated quickly.

However, I became fully aware of what was happening, what I was doing, what I was going through when I was exposed to a different lifestyle other than my own…I made friends with a girl who had a vastly different life than I did and she showed me that life can be different – that while you can start off in a dark place, like her mother did when she emigrated from Taiwan to the US, you can make a good life for yourself and your family – you just have to want it bad enough. Her mother had a real hard life acclimating to the new culture and a horrible experience in her relationship…but she was such a sweet lady and I wondered who she remained sweet and seemingly untainted by the bad. I never found out about her, but I found out about me – and who I am today is nowhere near who I was during my 20’s.

Still, after being exposed to her life, her family and their positive energy it took me a while to realize what was happening to me and how that was preventing me from attaining good opportunities in life – for years after meeting “Mum” I still viewed the world my angry eyes through the darkness cloak of depression. I should note that all of this; was after three years of counseling that led to me just being more angry about everything. Counseling or therapy can work for some people, so please, explore that option before anything else.

I was lost for so long and was tired of feeling like useless, unworthy, most importantly I became tired of feeling emotionally and physically heavy, but I didn’t know what to do or where to turn to, since counseling didn’t work so well for me. I turned to alcohol and made effort to escape my reality every night as I danced, drank, danced, and drank twice as much as I danced. It was a morning, after one of those crazy drinking nights that I realized that I was withering away to nothing. I realized that I was slowly achieving what I failed to that night in my apartment in the Bronx when I decided that I wasn’t worthy of love or life.

I looked at myself in the mirror and saw that the usual glow to my skin had become a gaudy ash tone of green, and like that day, I decided to make a call for help because my life was and is still worth something. So I did…by asking for guidance from God (or the universe, or whatever you want to call it, or prefer) and instead of going out with my friends I stood in and waited for an answer. It was the first day of being open to something good – thankfully it wasn’t the last. Years later I realized that good things start to happen when you’re open to them. Not a moment before.

With that said, I’m going to say that suffering from depression is very crippling, it’s something that many people can’t get over – and I still struggle with it, as well as struggle with (albeit brief) suicidal thoughts – but I make it a point to stay focused on what helps me move and work through the emotions as best as I can. I write down my feelings, and even make lists of things I have done so far, and the things I want to do, sort of like a pro and con list of what makes me such a great asset to life and those around me – a pros and cons list of why I love myself and why it’s so important to me for me to stay alive and emotionally balanced.

As a person who finds that staying busy and creative is a positive, I make sure that my mind is clear and active. When I go through those weeks of darkness it’s painful, not only emotionally, but also physically. Those weeks that I experience migraines, paralyzing pain throughout my body and other physical conditions that are challenging, I try my best to stay focused on the things I need to do in order to get my work completed and done by making lists and jotting down activities in my calendar. While some can classify me as a workaholic since I focus so much on work, but honestly, working on writing, film techniques and listing all the other things I need to get done for the current and next day helps me. Listing to-do’s, helps me go through the motions and move through the day, even if I don’t smile that entire day, or when I do I feel as if I’m falling apart internally enables me to feel good for working through the darkness. When I’m feeling better I revise whatever I created and give it a dab of positivity as I see fit.

Another and important thing that I do is I meditate, a lot. Meditation has helped me get a better outlook in life, clearing my mind, my heart, my soul from all the negativity and all the things that kept me incredibly angry for so long. Once that happened I began to love myself both emotionally and physically. I was also able to see the things I was capable of doing and achieving, what’s more, I was able to open myself emotionally to the world – something so many people are afraid to do because they’re afraid of being hurt. This last point is quite ironic, because I’ll be the first to admit that I was completely shut down by past experiences with being hurt. Experiencing emotional, physical, mental and sexual abuse from people who were closest to me and supposed to protect me as well as repeated sexually assaulted by a former romantic partner, and the countless of failed romantic relationships in my adult life – I had my fare share of pain, which led to destructive behavior that crippled me for so long. It also led to that suicide attempt in my early 20’s.

As soon as I let go of that fear, that anger and opened myself to the world I was able to feel more freely and recognize all sorts of emotions, be them good, bad or neutral and accept them as they are happening. Because of the ability to recognize feelings I’ve been able to freely talk about my traumatic experiences with those I’ve think are able to handle such harsh and traumatic events. I’ve also been able to recognize and accept feelings of love in different areas of my life and welcome warmth and happiness with an incomparable ease. I’ve even had people say that they feel happy and calm when they’re around me – so I know I’m doing something good and what I’m doing is working, not only for me, but for those around me.

Another thing I’ve been able to develop is an honest indifferent to the negative thoughts and words of others. It is because I know what’s true in my heart and life that negativity doesn’t bother me anymore. It’s like a sense of purity that comes over me and a short term curiosity of “what would motivate them to do that?” but that doesn’t last long (no more than a day or two). But that’s more important, I don’t feel like I should go after them and make their lives miserable. It’s also important to note, that while I an indifferent to negative talk, I do not allow it in my life because it will permeate and therefore contaminate all the good I’ve accomplished these past few years.

So, how do I see the light in the dark? I am open to the good things I’ve done and plan to do. I block out the negative and meditate after I work on my list of things to do. I acknowledge every emotion I have and try, my best, with an unbiased heart and mind to understand other’s reactions to their lives when it comes to directly dealing with them, as well as realizing that we don’t have complete control of what happens to us. We can only just experience what’s going on, and try to find a solution to any given and immediate problem, but sometimes, there isn’t a solution and things just have to be ‘left alone’ just like some people should be left alone or out of our lives.

As of today, I have to say I rarely drink, so much so that one beer gives me a buzz and that’s more than enough for me and while I like to spend time with my friends, I like to do so completely sober because it allows me to fully enjoy the experience.

Questions for an Independent (woman) Filmmaker

I’ve had several people come up to me and ask me how I’ve managed to write, direct, produce and release two short documentaries, one feature length documentary and the pilot episode for a docu-series – all without funding.

Also, people wonder if I just pretend to not have any money and continue to work and magically produce funding for each film. So, with these wonders (or questions) and others I’ve yet to mention I’m making my first entry in a while to clarify a few things; both professionally and personally. So, here we go!

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Q: How do you make your films?  

For the past few years I’ve been making my films with a Canon DSLR Rebel T3i Camera, a Panasonic audio recorder and editing footage with Sony software. The camera I’ve used it since my days as a journalist and has never failed me – well, once, because it was under the sun for too long and it over heated. But after a few days to recover it went back to working just fine. I don’t have much money to spend on making films – so I turn to technology a lot as well as try to get in touch with people at the placed I can afford to travel to. While many people may find it a bit difficult to see past the low to “sugar-string budget” of my documentaries – I hope they can see the message and story I’m trying to tell with each one of my films.

In essence, to make one of my films it’s about $1,000 on average with the resources I currently have. I try to extend each and every dollar, so I do most of the work myself. I direct, I manage camera(s), I edit, I use a free online music database under a creative commons license – I distribute, send out press releases and submit to film festivals all on my own. This takes a lot of work, but the even a single positive comment on a film is more than enough compensation for all the hard work I’ve put into one particular project. Also, the internet is a wonderful platform to distribute films, and it’s free.

Q: If you don’t have any money to keep on making films, what keeps you motivated?

Let’s face it, not everyone is made for this. While I don’t have the finances right now, I have to say that my determination and my passion for making films is what drives me; it keeps me motivated to continue with being a story teller. Why? Because while, it is somewhat about me and attaining my dreams, it’s also NOT ABOUT ME, but about the stories I tell, the people in it and the characters that represent people who have gone through hard times. My passion for making film is way bigger than the whole in my pocket. Because of this, if I feel a topic needs to be discussed or addressed in film, I’ll find a way to make that happen. Also, knowing that this process is what would be considered a “marathon” and not a “sprint” it gives me the patience to continue working slowly and surely on achieving short and long-term goals.

Q: You seem to lead the perfect life, how do you stay so positive all the time?

I don’t lead a perfect life – my life is quite complicated, the thing is I like to keep things very private…and I’m not always positive. Truth is I struggle with depression and I’m under constant stress over taking care of my father. Yes, I get to go to the beach whenever I want, but I don’t always have the time. Yes I live in a tropical island, but that doesn’t mean eternal happiness. Yes I smile all the time, but that doesn’t mean that I’m always happy. The way I deal with it all is: meditation. I have to take at least 2 hours to myself to work out and meditate right after. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be struggling with depression, the depression would take over completely and I’d be paralyzed with pain and despair. Like I mentioned before, my determination to keep moving forward and accomplish my dreams is very big – bigger than my depression and my wallet.

Q: How do you balance all your responsibilities with work?

Simple: Scheduling – there is a time and place for everything and I heavily rely on scheduling and sticking to time frames. I also have to accept days as they come.  There are days that nothing can be done about anything….where stagnation is the theme of the day. Instead of fighting the fact that I can’t accomplish a particular daily goal or get something done that dayI just go with the flow and let things take their course. If I fight, that only adds to the stress and I have enough of that already. Meditation helps so much with keeping me mentally balanced and stable and throughout the day I meditate for a few minutes if I need to. Just take a moment to breathe, acknowledge thoughts and move along. Also, having pets and spending time with them and basking in their pure unconditional love helps plenty.

Q: Are you in a relationship? Aren’t you afraid of intimidating men with your independence, intelligence and self sufficiency?

I am currently single…and NO. While so many people have advised me to tone down my “strong” characteristics, but, I’ve found that the person who is right for me will not care about my sense of independence since I’ve had to do so much for myself for so long. They’d understand me, support me and encourage me, just like I’d do for them. The key is to find a person to care and show they care in the little ways – because it’s the little things that count. So, no, I’m not afraid of intimidating anyone with any bits of my personality. Just the same way they shouldn’t feel afraid to intimidate me with any bit of theirs. If that happens, then they’re not the right one for me – or I for them.

Q: How far do you plan to ride this “filmmaking train”?

For the rest of my life and into the Oscars, BAFTA’s, Cannes, Golden Globes…and all the awards before that…

Q: How does your own experience influence in your writing and film ideas?

It influences plenty. There are many things I’ve gone through that can be found in my writing and things I’ve seen firsthand that influence the topic of documentaries I make – I have a few screenplays that have tidbits of my life, but people won’t know what they are unless they know me personally – it’s fun!

If you have any questions for me, you can send it to me via email (see side bar) or just add them to the comment section!

To stay up to date with the films I make and upcoming series subscribe to my YouTube Channel and be sure to watch Forever Boogies and Salt Water!

November Update

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Salt Water will be undergoing more edits

With all of what’s happened during the past few weeks it’s been difficult to keep myself together with my work, but here are a few things that’s happening or that are scheduled to happen this month.

  1. I moved to a new location – we’ve known that I’ve been looking for a new place to settle down and I’ve finally found one that I’m incredibly happy with.
  2. While I haven’t had much time to sit down and work, the few moments, hours I’ve had to do so I’ve realized that I’m not happy with the final cut of Salt Water and will be working on the edits once more. Once I’m incredibly happy and super satisfied with it, I’ll release it (thank God I didn’t release it already!) and submit it to film festivals, and later on upload it to my YouTube Channel.
  3. I’ve started to think of the perfect way to edit the pilot for the Silent no More docu-series. I do need a bit more footage, and do some additional recording myself – then it’s going to be perfect.
  4. There’s an upcoming surfing event (the Saturday after thanksgiving) and I’ll be covering that for the No Boundaries X Magazine – a publication that focuses on extreme sports and healthy lifestyle here in Puerto Rico.

What’s going on with the Film Festivals?

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Forced into Silence is still competing at Film Festivals! 

So, I’ve been waiting to hear from the 11 festivals I’ve submitted Forced into Silence to and while I’ve been accepted to one – and voted to win the Best Documentary award for that festival, there are other festivals that the film is still “in consideration” and others that have already rejected it. Why? Well, I don’t know, since they don’t give explanation for their decisions. I’m thinking it could be anywhere from the fact that I used Google Hangouts (because of budget restrictions) to make most of the film happen or the topic of choice of the film – again, I don’t know. However, I’m still hopeful that it makes the cut for those other festivals it’s still in consideration for. I also keep on getting invitations to submit to festivals. It’s all confusing and exciting, so I’ll keep you guys posted on that as I am informed of decisions, invites and more.

Political postings and rants

It’s been a tough couple of few weeks for me and my fellow liberals – and although I’ve never made a posting about politics, the results of an election, but I felt that this was more personal than any other election. I’ve been accused to be part of the snowflakes that are too delicate to deal with a real Presidential candidate by those in the alt-right – to which I say: “I’m too progressive to regress to segregation, religious registration and prevent a possible genocide of any kind” therefore I made a post about how I felt the political outcomes of both countries I’m directly involved with affected me personally.

Moving forward…

20160802_163946I’m putting together a group of amazing people in order to launch a podcast for those who need to hear about how to take on challenges in this world. So many people come up to me and confess to me their admiration for how I deal with issues in my life and ask for advice and that has inspired me to make a podcast to give people a new perspective as to how to see and deal with issues in their lives. I’m often told that I put things in a viewpoint that perhaps they would have never thought of – and maybe the podcast will enable me to help people that aren’t just my friends. Right now it’s an idea, so it’s going to be a while before I get that off the ground and running – still, stay tuned!

And since it’s November, happy holidays to everyone out there!

The stories as they should be told

The beauty of being a filmmaker is that I’m able to work on so many projects in different genres – but I keep on being asked “why are documentaries important to me?”

As a journalist and overall filmmaker I think that telling the stories, as truthful as possible, whenever I can is a responsibility that I have to my audience. Yes, I would love to, in a near future, direct scripted material – but for now I feel there are so many stories, involving the violation of both human and environmental rights that I need to further develop these stories and start a conversation that no one is having.dr-vibe-interview-transcript

I want to talk about domestic violence for a second (or two, or three)…

There has been a lot of talk about the struggles men face while coming out as victims of domestic violence – while the issue has been surging for the past few years there’s still a long way to go when it comes to providing help for men who say they’ve been abused by their partners – an injustice if you ask me.

According to a recent Business Insider article “a report released Tuesday by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) shows that Jacob, whose story is detailed in the report, was hardly alone in his struggle to find help. Surveying 1,976 instances of LGBTQ intimate partner abuse from 2015, NCAVP found that nearly half of survivors (44 percent) had been turned away from shelters.”

Why? Because most shelters have a “no men” policy in order to keep the women they’re helping safe – and they should be kept safe, but the administrations to these shelters and clinics should also recognize that men can and often are victims of domestic violence, rape and child sexual abuse – and rarely, if at all get any help.

While, and I reiterate here, the progress in the help women have gained throughout the years has been great and should be continued in order to help those who have been victimized by their partners – I feel there is a large demographic that is being ignored here, and until we address the other victims of domestic violence, we are only doing half of the work that is required to put an end to partner abuse and/or domestic violence.

Which is why the film Forced into Silence came about and now Silent no More is a docu-series will further explore the issues presented in the film. My hope is that people will see the importance of a gender-inclusive conversation of victims of domestic violence and will begin to realize that men and those in the LGBTQ community that face the gender-restrictions that force them to continue to go through these human rights violations, when they clearly need help to get out of their abusive situation.

As of today I began making the first edits to the interviews I’ve done for the pilot of the series, once done with that, I’ll be submitting it to festivals and pitching for funding for more episodes. All with hopes that producers  and/or financiers see the need to have this conversation, if I’m not successful with that, the docu-series will be available to be seen in different online platforms such as Vimeo and/or YouTube for everyone to see, learn and interact with. The point is to keep the conversation going and to help bring awareness that domestic violence is not a gender-exclusive problem, but everyone’s problem.