Broken Aster Film Discusses Bullying Consequences
Broken Aster is a short film about bullying created by actress Onira Tarés and actor, writer, and director Neko Parham.
We spoke to Tarés and Parham about the inspiration behind the creation of the film, and about the role bullying plays in schools across the nation.
"We both share a passion for the topic," Tarés said. "The movie burst its way into existence."
Parham first became aware of the bullying epidemic as an acting coach and teacher to young aspiring actors.
"A number of students would tell me all about the bullying situations they'd seen in school," he said. "I started asking questions about bullying, and that got me to start looking to YouTube for videos about kids being bullied."
There, he witnessed the heart-wrenching stories of kids as young as 9 who spoke about the horrible bullying they had faced.
"It blew my mind basically sitting up night after night watching these videos and crying," Parham said. "That's what inspired me to put the story to paper."
Parham wrote Broken Aster. The short film follows the story of 10-year-old Jessi Brooks as she deals with severe bullying. She speaks to her teacher and school administrators, but doesn't get much help, and decides to confront bullying on her own terms.
"The film shows how she deals with bullying in a very real way," Tarés said. "It's very gripping. We're excited about it and proud of it."
The title comes from the concept that girls are like flowers. The aster flower's name comes from the Greek word for "star."
"It made sense for me to name the film Broken Aster," Parham said. "She's a broken flower."
While the film tells a captivating narrative about the effects of bullying, Parham and Tarés also want to use the film to educate.
"We realized we had such an amazing film on our hands. We knew there was something special," Parham said. "We wanted to take the film into schools."
The team behind Broken Aster got together and brainstormed how they would make this most effective. Together, they came up with the idea of a lesson plan and workbook to accompany the film.
"It follows the film from beginning to end and follows each character," Parham explained. "We want kids to identify with each character, both the people being bullied and the bullies themselves."
The handbook teaches kids to be more hands-on in bullying prevention in a simple format that can be covered in one or two days.
The workbook also encourages students to work on their "personal relationship circles," or the circle of people that kids can look on and talk to for support.
"That includes people they trust, including parents, teachers, counselors, principals, even school bus drivers, but they're the people around you who you can talk to," Tarés said. "We encourage youth to open lines of communication, to not be afraid to talk to these people in that circle."
Personal relationship circles are one of the keys to rising above bullying.
"Don't just tell one person," Tarés said. "If you tell a circle of people, it will help you get the help you need."
The film and workbook also try to raise awareness about some of the reasons kids get bullied by others.
"We want kids to know it's not because something is wrong with them," she said. "We are all unique and have a purpose. If you remember that, you can rise above all the negative energy coming your way."
Broken Aster is an important film because of the growing role of bullying in this age.
"When we were growing up we got teased, and there was bullying here and there, but the stakes have become so much higher," Tarés said. "We didn't have that when we were kids. You were bullied at your locker, not all over the internet."
The costs of bullying can be high, but we are all thankful bullying has gotten more media attention recently.
"We're glad it's getting more attention then it's gotten before," Tarés said. "We can have these programs and prevention."
The creators of Broken Aster made the film knowing that it would spur even more important conversations about the problem of bullying and what can be done about it.
"In this film I was forced to tell the truth about bullying and live on the edge without breaking the spirits of the children, parents, and teachers who watch the film," Parham explained.
They aim to get the film in every school across the country. Currently, Parham and Tarés are working with the state of Connecticut, and in talks with schools in the Southeast, as well as Los Angeles.
The film also features Sweety Ambassador katbeez as an extra!
Learn more about the Broken Aster Program and join the movement here.