A gay 15-year-old's heartbreak and obsession with the social
media make for a gripping tale of how the internet can drive fragile minds
into a dangerous world, in the Filipino film "Unfriend" shown at the
Berlin film festival.
and internet addiction
Director Joselito Altarejos takes viewers on a nightmarish journey with the
film's hero David, who is jilted by his lover just before Christmas, and turns
to the screens of his mobile phone, iPad and computer in a desperate attempt to
prolong his connection to the 17-year-old Jonathan.
As his phone calls, text messages and Skype calls go unanswered, David
becomes more and more detached from reality, and meanders through the crowds
and chaos of Manila with a fatal plan forming in his head.
Voyeurs and exhibitionists
Altarejos based his film on the 2011 shootings in a Filipino shopping mall
of two young male lovers, amateur footage of which later surfaced online and
"A 13-year-old boy killed his boyfriend and killed himself inside a
mall. The video was uploaded on Facebook. I promised myself I would do
something about it. I would show people how social media has changed the way we
live our lives, how we have become performers, and how social media has also
made us voyeurs and exhibitionists," Altarejos told Reuters.
The film has a universal message in showing the dangers that the unfiltered
information available online can hold for teenagers – putting them in touch
with shady individuals, or informing them how to handle a firearm, for example.
"For young people to have the power to get everything is very
dangerous," Altarejos added.
"Unfriend" vividly portrays life in the Philippines, where poverty
forces millions to work abroad, and cheap phones and free
WiFi make social media all-pervasive.
David lives with his grandmother, a kind but distracted woman, immersed in
her Catholic faith. Although they can sing karaoke songs together and share
tender moments, the generation gap is vast. David's parents work abroad –
compounding his loneliness. Only once do social media become a benign force in
the film as it allows David to Skype his mother.
"Most Filipinos have to go out of the country to find work... It is ironic
that you want to give your family a better life but at the same time you detach
yourself from your family," said Altarejos, whose mother was a maid in the
The film shows a world where phones are sold at markets, people buy tiny
amounts of phone credit from street stalls and kids bury themselves in shabby internet cafe booths.
"Wifi is everywhere and free. Some kids skip lunch to buy credits for
their phones," said Altarejos.
Sandino Martin, the 21-year-old who plays David, consulted a psychiatrist
for help on how to portray his character's fragile state, and spent time at a
high school to see how 15-year-olds used the internet. What he saw shocked him.
"I got scared when I went back because I felt that 'wow' there is a big
change and I don't think in a good way. On the internet everything is within
reach...it gave me chills."
"I tried searching suicide videos – some of them got one million views!
It is just out there and you can watch it free."
addiction may be genetic
health searches not private
use triggers depression
(Picture: Social Media from Shutterstock)