Survivor’s Guilt. This is a phrase coined, typically, for Holocaust survivors and war veterans after going through a life-threatening event and coming out alive, if that’s the correct word to use, and being able to speak about it. They usually feel the stress of survivor’s guilt after losing peers or family to this event. It’s not that these people are ungrateful, but thoughts, or maybe ghosts, haunt their mind causing them to ask “why not me?” Maybe they feel indebted to those that lost their lives. Maybe if their positions were switched, they would have died rather than the person who did. More likely than not, there could be a connection to survivor’s guilt and post-traumatic stress disorder.
But- What if you don’t have to physically be in the presence of the life-threatening event in order to suffer from survivor’s guilt?
The Art of Being Haunted follows a young college student, Basqui, trying to make his way back to school after facing a traumatic event. Without revealing what happened, or what happens after, you can see his shift in personality when doing regular things such as talk to his mother, talk to a girl, or just go back to school. Ordinary things become difficult when you’re constantly wondering if your life has any more meaning than the ones that lost theirs.
The beautiful thing about film is being able to take experiences and stretch the realism into surrealism.
I remember the summer of 2006 for a few reasons: I graduated high school and the blood on the street rose with the sun’s heat. July of that summer, I lost a great friend, who I thought was going to thrive in life. He was way too live to die at 18. The unstoppable feeling of getting a diploma fizzled within a month when the realization that death had its own agenda came. Although I wasn’t there when he was murdered, I did visit the street it happened on. I felt the reenactment in my mind. I saw him. Saw him suffer. At the funeral, I saw his body. I didn’t feel the same liveliness I felt in him a few weeks prior.
If this young pitbull of a spirit can be put down so easily, what does that say about mine? Why would the universe remove someone with so much potential before me?
These were my thoughts at 17.
Basqui, whose name is taken from Jean-Michel Basquiat, is an artist. In the film, there are backdrops of murals and camera angles through his paintbrushes. There is a reason for his name and the title of the film The Art of Being Haunted. Aside from the fact that I was a graphic design major my freshman year, I think there is an art to being haunted. Our experiences color us into the beings we are today. Sometimes we have to shift the palette a bit to notice the other colors we have.
Even if you are broken, there’s a mosaic still inside you. Even when your colors a broken, know there’s a rainbow still inside you.
It’s not easy, but it is possible. For me, going to therapy at 18 was a step to seeing the other colors in my life. My friend is dead, but I’m still alive. With that is the power to create this life however I so choose.
Shouldn’t I be grateful for that?
I think we sometimes forget that life is a privilege. Out of my privilege of life, I owe him that much.
We’ve shown this film at schools, public theatres, and now it is available online, all with the hopes that people will be able to seek help if they find that they need it.
If you take nothing else from watching this short film, I hope you take note that Basqui does make a step to find the masterpiece within him again. You’ll notice it when you see the colors.
~Hakim Hill Director of Art of Being Haunted & Co-Executive Producer of HipStory Films