Bethany Catholic College Hurstville students Tea Leone and Eden Fernando have been named winners of the junior category of ProPsych’s 2021 Mentalicious Film Competition.

The Year 9 students took out the category with their short film Can I Talk To You? impressing the judges and scoring the pair $500 in prize money.

The Mentalicious Film Competition is the brainchild of ProPsych, an initiative that focuses on mental health in schools.

The competition is open to Australian and New Zealand students in Years 7-12 and aims to showcase the filmmaking talents of students while raising awareness and eradicating stigma surrounding mental health.

No substitute for the real thing

As young adults who have grown up in the digital age, Tea and Eden said they wanted to highlight the importance of real, human connection in their film.

“Our film draws attention to the importance of human connection and relationships, even as technology becomes increasingly present in our society,” Tea explained.

“Though technology can make some aspects of life easier and more convenient, it can’t replace everything” – Tea Leone   

“Ultimately, as shown in our short film, a conversation with a robot isn’t half as helpful or effective as a genuine conversation with another human being,” Eden added.

Talking about a revolution

Tea and Eden said they hope their film helps to spark change in the way humans interact with technology.

“With the theme being Imagine a Mental Health Revolution, we were really drawn to the word ‘revolution’, and this was what sparked the final plot of the film,” said Tea.

“We thought about a futuristic revolution and the possibility of technology, for example robots and AI (artificial intelligence), taking over society.”

Eden said: “We realised that this kind of “technological revolution” could be damaging for human relationships and mental health, and this was the perspective we tried to convey in our short film.”

“We’re grateful that we have this amazing opportunity which could be used as a catalyst to inspire people to be their own Mental Health Revolution!” – Eden Fernando 

A lockdown effort

Bethany College teacher Theresa Chisari who, together with Erin Rogers, helped guide Tea and Eden through the project, said the pair were enthusiastic about the film right from the start.

“During lockdown we thought we’d put the competition out there to any of the students who were interested and Tea and Eden were willing as always to take on the challenge,” said Ms Chisari.

“Ms Rogers and I worked with the girls on the script via Zoom and over phone calls, and then worked on the editing process over Zoom which was quite a challenge!”

A carefully crafted message

Ms Chisari said she was impressed with the way Tea and Eden thought about what impact they wanted their film to have on the audience.

“We spoke about how to appropriately address a topic like mental health, because it’s an issue that affects so many,” Ms Chisari said.

“We even sought input from the school’s Director of Wellbeing to ensure that the film respected the right boundaries.

“Most importantly, we wanted to have the students come at it from the way they see things as what they’re experiencing can be quite different from how teachers and adults see things.

“They did a fantastic job and we’re all so incredibly proud.”