We all have different perspectives or lenses through which we see the world. A certain view precedes all our daily decisions, life choices, and responses to God. In Matthew 6:22, it says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” Oftentimes, the problem is in one’s perception and not a lack of light.
As a filmmaker who values culture, Ram understands the importance of perspective, a lens through which one sees the world. Ram Esteban Estael is an independent, Christian film director who hails from a family with roots in Agusan del Sur, a province in the southern part of the Philippines. “I was born and raised in a Christian family and so I received Christ during an Assembly of God boot camp in 2013. I was baptized the following year. I started serving through teaching in Sunday School when I was 14,” recounts Ram.
Initially dreaming of becoming a medical doctor, Ram found psychology interesting. He graduated BS Psychology in MSU-Marawi City and is currently taking his Masters in Counseling at the Asian Theological Seminary, Quezon City. He desires to have a doctoral degree in psychology, still a way of becoming a “doctor” someday.
Later, Ram found his love for filmmaking. “I got interested in filmmaking when I was given a video camera in my early teen years. I was already making short films back then. However, it was as if the skills fell asleep. Recently, during the pandemic, I got inspired to make a film and then joined a video contest to raise funds for the gadgets of our church media team.”
This small stint at fundraising became Ram’s advocacy: showcasing culture through the lens of faith. After winning film festivals one after another, his passion was redirected into advocating for the human rights of indigenous people through documentaries. He then founded Vineyard Films, a small media production that aims to create inspiring and evangelistic media content.
Storytelling Through Film
As a young Manobo leader and a film documentarist, Ram volunteers in community work. He served in far-flung and underprivileged villages in the Bangsamoro Region from 2013 to 2019. Ram believes in the importance of telling the stories of indigenous people groups. “There are so many stories in rural communities. This is the time to tell stories about what is really happening and not just tall tales in these regions. They also have a lot of stories to tell that describe their culture and traditions.”
As a director and storyteller, Ram desires to see more filmmakers perceive the world and its stories through the lens of light and faith. “I sense that there is a need to have inspirational and meaningful films. We lack them these days.” He further expresses this by sharing more about his love for Mindanao and its indigenous people groups. “The call to love thy neighbors is what keeps me going. Few are called to go, to extend help, and to serve the unreached areas of the region. I dare to make a difference. I take bold steps to stand in the gap despite challenges.”
The Pandemic Effect on Media
The biggest struggle and sacrifice as a filmmaker may vary from time to time, but even more so during the pandemic. Ram says, “Gathering people is challenging, especially because you have to consider a lot of protocols. Moreover, funding films is hard because I must look for people to produce and finance the creation of the film. You have to shell out from your own pocket to buy needs, and you have to innovate and teach your peers—especially those who are just beginners in the craft.”
The Silver-Lining Behind Clouds
The success of pushing Ram’s advocacy is worth the struggles he faces. “Every time we win at film festivals, it is always encouraging to do more films. One more thing that inspires me is helping others discover their hidden talents and honing them as they go along the way in this art form.”
One’s lens of faith affects the way we perceive struggle and trouble in this world. Faith is Ram’s perspective. This is what he sees through his camera lens as he tells the world the story of Mindanao—its culture and its people.
“The pandemic is pulling everything down, and faith can neutralize whatever is pushed down. Faith will see you through and will keep you sane and ‘in shape’ during these strange times.” The world is going through one of the most challenging phases, at least in this generation.
Ram wants to showcase films that have meaning, inspiration, and hope. To see the world through Ram’s lens means to push back from the rising tyranny of fear in the world today.
How about you? How do you see the world? May we continue to see more creators like Ram–creators who choose to see the world through the lens of positivity and faith.
“And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
At present, this adventurous, social activist and detail-oriented leader is a member of MoveIn Philippines and the CEO and Managing Director of Shelter Now Filipinas, a humanitarian aid organization that helps the people of the Near and Middle East.