They bring dark to light

They bring dark to light
A screengrab of Mark Wee's video entry "the Animals" which is about a severely deformed man who was forced to work in a freak show circuit in Victorian-era London.

Fourteen awards are up for grabs at the National Youth Film Awards (NYFA). Tania Valensia (taniav@sph.com.sg) speaks with two film-makers whose works are in the running eight months. That was how long Mr Mark Wee took to create his six-minute long black-and-white animation film.

Each scene in The Animals, which is one of the 14 entries submitted for the National Youth Film Awards (NYFA), took about one to two weeks to complete.

"(Making the film) was physically and psychologically tiring," said the 27-year-old, who is studying for his masters of arts at Nanyang Technological University.

His film is a twist on the 1980 movie The Elephant Man. It is set in Victorian-era London and is about a severely deformed man who is forced to work the freak show circuit and is rescued by a doctor.

In his animation, Mr Wee portrays the Elephant Man as having a human appearance and society as animals.

"The idea is to show that (despite our outer appearances), people are not so different after all," he said.

He did face several challenges over the course of the production.

To bring the silhouette, wayang-like animation concept to life, he spent many hours cutting thick pieces of paper into the shapes of the characters and the props.

German composer

He also had to work around a six-hour time zone difference when collaborating with Stuttgart-based German composer Helge Ebinger to produce the voices and soundtrack for the film.

His hard work and determination paid off in the end as his film, which was also his school's final-year project, "did pretty well".

But Mr Wee said that animation has not always been his interest.

He initially wanted to pursue games design.

But when he was in Ngee Ann Polytechnic studying multimedia and animation, he watched a 1968 short film called Walking by Ryan Larkin in class and it made him change his career plans.

The film introduced him to a different world of animation, such as that of shorts and feature films.

"Previously, my idea of animation was that it involved a big studio production, such as Disney animations," he said.

But it has not been smooth sailing.

His family was initially sceptical of his decision to pursue animation, but they have since become more accepting.

Mr Wee said he aspires to continue making animation films.

"There is still this (impression) that animation is for children. I really hope people will change their mindset."

Personal story that hits home

Her autobiographical film is based on a dark period of her life.

And to make it more authentic, Miss Nur Bibiyana Hussain convinced her parents and brother to be part of the cast.

But when it was completed, she was too shy to show it to her parents.

"I have some qualms about being in the spotlight, even now. I have stage fright and I prefer to be low-key," said the 22-year-old.

Miss Hussain's film, titled Dark: An Autobiography, is about a young girl and her family living in total darkness due to financial problems.

It was based on Miss Hussain's own life. When she was about 10 years old, both her parents were retrenched and were declared bankrupt.

Tough times

"We went without electricity, gas and water for about a month. We still struggled to make ends meet for a few years after that.

"It only got better when I was 14 or 15 years old," said the student at Lasalle College of the Arts who is majoring in film.

She said the experience made her appreciate the sacrifices her parents made to secure her and her brother's well-being.

"My dad did night shifts and my mum took on longer shifts just to make ends meet."

She hopes the film will touch the audience and help them empathise with those who have nothing.

She also hopes to raise awareness of families facing similar issues.

When asked if she feels awkward about sharing what some might consider a very private aspect of her life, she said she has no qualms as there is nothing to hide.

"I came out stronger from that experience.

"So I was set in making that story."


This article was first published on May 11, 2015.
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