Cleveland International Film Festival } March 25 – April 5, 2020 } Tower City Cinemas

Filmmaker Provides Roadmap to Teens with Cancer

April 01, 2019   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers


Cancer does not discriminate. That’s hardly a surprise given that most people have been affected by the devastating illness one way or another.

With “Cancer Rebellion,” though, filmmaker Hernan Barangan is shining his light on the roughly 70,000 teenagers and young adults diagnosed with cancer each year. Right now, this age group is commonly diagnosed at a late stage of cancer simply because most don’t expect young people to get it.

It’s a deeply personal topic for Barangan, himself diagnosed with leukemia at age 15, just as his life was beginning to unfold. Years later—now cancer-free and using a wheelchair—he traveled to every state to tell the stories of the young men and women courageously fighting cancer.

“The scariest thing about facing a cancer diagnosis is that when it happens to you, you’re absolutely facing the unknown,” says Barangan. “So I wanted this film to act as a sort of road map—emotionally and physically—for all the stages of going through treatment and coming out the other side. When you have a map, being lost isn’t so scary.”

As Barangan started making films about people’s cancer experiences, he was fascinated by how individual these experiences are. He also saw commonalities in these experiences—elements that rang true for everyone. He says he learned there’s more that ties us together than keeps us apart.

“It took a feat of courage to be able to hear these stories at first,” he says. “I was afraid of welcoming these emotions back into my life afraid of having to say the word cancer again and again. Like it was the boogeyman, and by invoking his name he would reappear. Honestly, I still have that irrational fear. But the more stories I absorbed … the more I learned about my own story. So much of my identity and my world view is built on the foundation of my cancer experience.”

In many ways, he hopes to shift the prevailing narrative in media and film about cancer.

“This is happening all around us, and we can’t ignore it anymore,” says Barangan. “We can’t push these fears away like they are some imaginary boogeyman. Teenage cancer is real and it’s cutting lives short­­—every day.”

Timothy Magaw

PHOTO: Hernan Barangan’s LinkedIn profile lists him as “Chief Rebellion Officer.” His focus: empowering teen and young adult cancer fighters through storytelling. He travelled to all 50 states and interviewed 100 teen cancer patients for his film.

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Related Screenings:
04/01/19 @ 1:45 PM – Cancer Rebellion
04/02/19 @ 5:00 PM – Cancer Rebellion
04/03/19 @ 11:50 AM – Cancer Rebellion

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