Award-Winning FYP Filmmakers Take Center Stage

Three outstanding Final Year Projects scored big at the National Youth Film Awards 2018.

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In July this year, three Final Year Project groups from the Wee Kim Wee School of Information and Communication bagged multiple awards at the National Youth Film Awards 2018 organised by *SCAPE.

In its fourth edition, the NYFA identifies highly talented youths within the field of film and animation production. The aspiring filmmakers of “Living in Chains,” “Breakdown” and “The Crematorium Man” collectively attained one documentary award and three individual awards.

 

“Living in Chains” - Fujifilm Best Documentary Award

VIDEO CREDIT: THECHAINFILMS

 

Dressed in rags stained with what seemed like period blood, a mentally ill lady lies on the ground next to her wooden “bed” — a slab of concrete covered with wooden planks — in a dilapidated shelter in Brebes, Indonesia.

One of her ankles is propped up on the edge of her “bed” and chained to the wooden planks.

This is one of many harrowing scenes in “Living in Chains,” an award-winning Final Year Project documentary that explored the reasons behind pasung — the common practice of restraining the mentally ill with chains or locking them up in confined spaces.

This documentary by Atikah Hasimen (CS’18), Nur Humaira (CS’18), Kannan Vijayakumar (CS’18) and Ria Chia (CS’18) bagged the Fujifilm Best Documentary Award at NYFA 2018. It was also featured in four international film festivals, including the Global Impact Film Festival 2018 in the U.S., and will be screened at the Jogja International Film Festival 2018 in Yogyakarta at the end of the year.

While pasung has been outlawed in Indonesia since 1977, it is still prominent in rural areas, such as Brebes and Cilacap, due to a shortage of mental health professionals and facilities. The filmmakers felt that the media often condemned the practice without exploring the perspective of the religious healers who care for the mentally ill patients. Hence, the goal of their documentary was to shed light on the reasons behind the practice.

“We wanted to hear from the victims and the people who are carrying out the practice because we feel that there are some viewpoints that are not (portrayed) in various media outlets,” said Humaira.

“We may not have the resources or capabilities to help them out so we thought that by making a film, perhaps it would move hearts (and get) people to contribute in certain ways to improve the situation there.”

NUR HUMAIRA (CS’18), DIRECTOR FOR “LIVING IN CHAINS”

“Living in Chains” also earned a feature in local Malay newspaper Berita Harian in February and was screened at a mental health awareness panel at the Singapore Writers Festival earlier this month.

But such media recognition is merely the cherry on top as the group’s primary objective was to raise awareness about pasung and spur those with adequate resources to help patients in need.

The documentary inspired volunteers from Club Heal, a Singaporean organisation that provides aid for the mentally ill, to start a humanitarian project in July to raise funds to build more living spaces for the patients in Brebes.

“We may not have the resources or capabilities to help them out so we thought that by making a film, perhaps it would move hearts (and get) people to contribute in certain ways to improve the situation there,” said Humaira.

“Winning the award was actually unexpected for us, because there were other groups’ films screened at the awards, and they were just so good,” Atikah added. “But we were glad that the award helped create awareness (about pasung).”

 

“Breakdown” - Best Screenplay Award (Gabriel Goh, CS’18), Mocha Chai Lab Best Sound Award (Jonathan Lim, CS’18)  

VIDEO CREDIT: PRODUCERS OF BREAKDOWN

 

Another FYP film that stood out at this year’s NYFA is “Breakdown,” a 17-minute narrative that shadows the lives of two blue-collar workers in Singapore.

“Breakdown” follows two auxiliary officers on their night shift. While on duty, one of the officers received a call from his girlfriend who was in labour, but he was unable to attend to the emergency as he was obliged to stay on the job.

Produced by Gabriel Goh (CS’18), Jonathan Lim (CS’18), Matthew Yang (CS’18) and Tiffany Soh (CS’18), the film’s objective was to surface the difficulties of the working class in Singapore “due to the invisible class divide between the middle and lower class,” said Goh.

Goh’s part-time job as an auxiliary officer from 2014 to 2017 was the main inspiration behind “Breakdown,” which scored seven nominations and clinched two awards — Best Screenplay Award and Mocha Chai Lab Best Sound Award — at NYFA 2018.

“(Students) shouldn't always look at FYP like as an assignment. Rather, we should take this chance to emulate (a work of industry standards).”

JONATHAN LIM (CS’18), AUDIO COMPOSER FOR “BREAKDOWN”

During his patrol shifts, Goh realised that many of his colleagues faced difficulties advancing in their careers and missed family emergencies due to work.

“What was aggravating for me was seeing a system of ‘meritocracy’ fail the lower rungs of society. No matter how hard they worked, they would not progress far without some education papers,” said Goh.

“They were also caught in messy situations back home but were not allowed to settle them because their job had to come first,” he added.

Winning the awards opened several doors for Goh and Lim, who both landed stints in production houses. Goh worked on a narrative script with Flying Kick Asia in August this year and Lim is set to work on a film with Mocha Chai Laboratories as an audio composer.

Lim feels that FYPs are “a good opportunity to acquire film production experience that match the actual standards of the media industry.”

“(Students) shouldn't always look at FYP like as an assignment. Rather, we should take this chance to emulate (a work of industry standards).”

 

“The Crematorium Man” - Best Original Music Award (Ernie Goh, CS’18)

VIDEO CREDIT: RABBITHOLE PRODUCTIONS

 

When Ernie Goh (CS’18) was recording audio clips for his FYP narrative film at Mount Vernon Crematorium in the day, he realised that there was a lot of background noise from the chants and prayers in neighbouring funeral halls.

Dissatisfied with the sound recordings, Goh returned to the crematorium time and time again in the wee hours to perfect his craft.

Goh’s hard work paid off dutifully as the soundtrack he composed for his film, “The Crematorium Man,” won Best Original Music Award at the NYFA 2018. The film also received the Best Final Year Project at the Asian Television Awards 2018 in June.

“Ultimately you are helping the filmmaker to tell a story the way they want it, and you’ll try your best using everything you’ve ever learnt to make that happen. And I guess that’s the beauty of media composing.”

ERNIE GOH (CS’18), AUDIO COMPOSER FOR “THE CREMATORIUM MAN”

Winning the award was a source of validation for Goh, who said: “I learn most of music on my own; I wasn't taught or anything. So it was a nice pat on the back.”

He discovered his passion for media composition after taking broadcast modules like Cinema Studies and Image and Sound Production in WKWSCI.

These modules gave him opportunities to explore sound design, said Goh, who compared his time in WKWSCI to “playing in a safe sandbox” where he was allowed to make mistakes and learn from them.

The film projects he worked on in his own leisure time also helped him to realise the “endless combinations of sound design” for cinematic storytelling.

“Media composition is a palette to help tell better stories. Ultimately you are helping the filmmaker to tell a story the way they want it, and you’ll try your best using everything you’ve ever learnt to make that happen. And I guess that’s the beauty of media composing.”

 

VIDEO: CHEONG WAN TING

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