Editor’s Note: This article is part of “Spotlight,” a recurring series featuring CNMI personalities. To suggest a person to feature in this section, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Denton Pangelinan, a military veteran, is making waves with his debut film, Remember Me, which shines a spotlight on post-traumatic stress disorder that many veterans suffer. Last October, Remember Me won the Best of Festival award at the 2019 Guam International Film Festival.
The film is a tale of two friends who return home after being deployed by the U.S. military for many years. The film, borne out of the creative imaginations of Pangelinan and his partner, Rita Indalecio, raises awareness of PTSD, which affects many veterans.
“I wanted to portray being in the mind of a veteran that’s actually suffering from PTSD. Through the whole movie, it takes you into this dark place, it takes you into their minds,” Pangelinan said.
Pangelinan, a veteran himself after serving in the U.S. military for eight years, co-produced the film with Indalecio, through their D&R Visuals. Indalecio directed the film with Carlo Domingo.
“As a person who experienced it, I also have seen friends that are, firsthand, going through it. And it just really hurts my heart that there are people out there who will keep it on the down low, and don’t want to talk about it, when we all need to help,” Pangelinan said.
The young veteran hopes that the film raises awareness within the Veterans Affairs itself, for them to bring more help to the CNMI.
“We need more help,” Pangelinan said.
“Coming from here, what I realized about the Northern Marianas, in general, is that there’s really not a lot of help from the VA that we get. Yes, we have an outsource here but all we do, for example, if we needed surgery, is to be referred to Guam, and then if Guam cannot do it, then we have to be referred to Hawaii or California.”
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, there are currently about 8 million people in the United States with PTSD.
Knowing this, and to help even more, the money raised from the screening of the film was all donated to Mission 22, a non-profit that assists veterans in getting the help that they need.
“Post-traumatic stress disorder is a real issue. We want people to understand that if they are going through it, or, if they are going through any type of depression, speak up to somebody, talk to somebody, because there are people out there who are willing to sit down and listen,” he said.
Pangelinan knows the subject too well, having gone through and survived it himself.
“As someone who actually has been through it, I know the feeling of keeping it inside,” Pangelinan said. “Bu I also know the feeling of actually talking about it. I talked about it and understood that there are people out there that are going through it too.”
With help from others, and with self-determination, he was able to turn his life around and is now using the wisdom gained through his experiences to be of help to others. They will also soon be busy on Part 2 of Remember Me.
Realizing the power of films, he and his team are also working on a film that highlights the CNMI culture, with a hope that, through it, more people would be interested to visit the islands. Pangelinan believes that local culture can be visualized through films.
“For us who come from a little island, the best way to explain our story, our beliefs, is through film,” Pangelinan said. “People who are not really into our culture can see it, and be like ‘Wow, I have never heard of this space but their culture seems awesome.’ Hopefully that brings in more tourists.”
Pangelinan’s new project, tentatively titled, Two Sides to a Story, Home, would showcase the island culture. It talks about perspectives from a local high school student, and then of an adult who has moved back to Saipan after being away for 15 years.
Aside from working on films, Pangelinan, along with the other filmmakers on the island, are bent on fortifying the budding film industry in the CNMI.
“We want to showcase that the Marianas has talent. There are people out here who can write, who can tell a story,” Pangelinan said, adding that they hope to get programs out that could help the younger generation to experience what it is to be a filmmaker, to write, record, and edit.
There is no stopping Pangelinan from becoming an inspiration to others, especially the youth. “I feel amazing right now. I want to tell the younger generations that if they have a dream, don’t ever let anything stop them. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it. Especially in this industry. Everybody has art in them; it is just a matter of finding it yourself. Pursue it if you really want to do it.”