‘Five Friends’ producer discusses male intimacy at Six O’Clock Series

Filmmaker Hank Mandel presents his film "Five Friends" to students during the Six O' Clock Series Oct. 14 in the HUB Ohio Room. (Nick Dampman/ The Penn)

In an effort to shed light on the value of strong male relationships, documen­tary producer Hank Mandel presented his experiences and insight at the Six O’Clock Series Monday.

The program titled “Men’s Friend­ships: No Man Can Make the Journey Alone,” was co-sponsored by Men’s Awareness Program and began with a 30-minute showing of Mandel’s film “Five Friends” about male-to-male inti­macy and its meaning.

The presentation began with an in­troduction to the film and speaker, fol­lowed by the film and a speech by Man­del. He discussed the film’s making and led a discussion about male relation­ships and their importance.

“My male friends are important to me,” Mandel said. “I am very invested in my friendships…. They offer insight into who I am.”

The fear of intimacy between males equating homosexuality was mentioned during the presentation.

“Men loving men is one of the most beautiful things,” Mandel said. “Emo­tional relationships do not mean you are gay. I do not care if you think I am gay. I am not.”

Mandel and his film discussed the differences between male and female re­lationships, pointing out the increase in difficulty when starting a male-on-male relationship as opposed to the opposite gender.

Mandel also gave his take on friend­ships with women.

“I could never have the same kind of relationship with a woman,” Mandel said. “Women do have something to offer, but it’s different.”

Not all of the presentation had to do with two males having friendships. The conversation began to shift to more serious topics about halfway through, addressing the fatal drug overdose of his friend’s son.

“I went to his house, sat with him, and let him cry,” Mandel explained about the situation. “We are lucky for these friendships during traumatic events.”

Mandel said that men feel they have to “hold it all together” more than women, and having male camaraderie helps.

When discussing how sexual expe­riences affect male relationships, the conversation changed gears. Mandel discussed, for the first time to a live audience, a case of sexual abuse that he went through as a child for two consec­utive years at a summer camp.

“I am 70 years old and didn’t talk about it until I was 67,” Mandel said. “We have to stop sexual abuse, stop be­ing guilty and hiding it, and help others come out about what is happening.”

Mandel discussed sexual abuse and traumatic events in depth as the night went on.

“Horrible things happen to boys and girls. Whatever it may be, they must come out and be brave,” he said. “It is not easy to talk about, but we must talk about it.”

The reaction to the event seemed to be unanimous.

“I agree with the fact that sexual abuse needs to be discussed,” Nick Rodriguez (sophomore, child develop­ment/family relations) said. “The long-term damage doesn’t go away, and talk­ing about it will help stop it.”

The Men’s Awareness Club encourages male students to check into the club.

“We are a group talking about masculinity and how to create healthy relationships with other men,” said Gary Prunty (junior, sociology and psychology), the founding president of the group.

“It is a safe space to talk about these things.”

Men’s Awareness Club meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month in the Allegheny Room of the HUB.