(Guest Author) PHILIP 21: ‘‘It’s only awkward if you make it awkward.’’
PHILIP 21 was a well delivered artwork that touched the surface of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequently showed us the true side of mental health and how social anxiety is embodied within awkwardness and in addition, how communicating after a year of isolation and getting-to-know-yourself, affected one’s daily life, routine and decisions.
PHILIP 21 is a work of art tailored to younger generations, and by introducing the audience to a familiar culture and its struggles, they welcome us to a path of assistance and sympathy. The importance of their voices signalled and informed the spectators that the evolution of anti-racism can be delayed and postponed if we do not become one as a society.
The story of the film followed an approach towards their audience that has been seen before, for example, in Black Mirror Bandersnatch or even Bear Grills’ You Vs Wild, but that does not make PHILIP 21 less innovative. By having a variety of responses to choose from, it supplemented the audience with freedom and alternate universes. However, I personally believe that the decisions on screen that have been chosen by PHILIP 21 team, are meant to be taken either way due to the fact that these choices might have not come across with just PHILIP himself but with other people that relate with his story.
What I have witnessed throughout my journey to the film and throughout my life, is that racism has also started taken the form of passiveness rather than activeness, and passiveness, which is equally as racist and exploitative to the black community, due to the fact that it returns them to a state of objectification, engenders a spectrum of fetishism and bias towards the black culture. Nonetheless, in order to break free from passive racism, people need to annihilate any form of indirect bias and introduce themselves to the art of unlearning, and PHILIP even though he realizes it is not his responsibility to do so at the end of the film, he still seems that he wants to help and fight for it.
Digging more into the character of PHILIP, his chosen behavior is rather self-explanatory: from body language to verbal communication. It is clear enough that the individual has not met pain for the first time, especially from other partners. He is aware of his boundaries this time and does not want to spend his time with a partner that will push him back to a spectrum of love that fluctuates around toxicity and negativity. Later on, a new character is being introduced to us, a-so-called-friend, that depicts the difficulties and expectations that can be appeared in a friendship. The new character engages in PHILIP’s personal life, trying to convince him that his ex-girlfriend is clearly the girl that his friend wants him to be with. However, this not only shows us that friends can be quite detrimental towards one’s mental health, but also, it focuses and shines more on the purpose of the character as an individual that we discussed earlier: finding a person that listens and sympathizes instead of intervening.
Nevertheless, the message of the film could not be clearer. The black community does not owe anything to the people that happened to be part of the problem and it is not their responsibility to educate and tell them how to treat people. At the end of the day, everyone is responsible for their actions and lives. What I admired the most about the film and I congratulate team PHILIP 21 for that, is that it is indeed a choice to help people and to make them understand, but this type of help is not guaranteed and should not be expected. When there is a desire to unlearn and a desire for evolvement, only then the world will comprehend the power of peace. But remember, when there is bad there is good and when there is good, there is bad too.
A review by Michail Koglou
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