*SCAPE’s annual National Youth Film Awards (NYFA) has announced its 53 nominees, and the young filmmakers are not afraid to address some seriously thought-provoking topics. Across the nominees, themes such as mental health, societal pressures, and national identity are addressed.
Take for example “Unite in laughter”, one of the nominated films from the Media Student Category. Based on Singapore Founding Father Lee Kuan Yew’s words where he likened the nation to a durian, director Nevin Jacob Thomas explored the uncomfortable sides of the Singaporean identity through the lens of local comedians. “We are hard on the outside and there is this soft flesh inside. I wanted to look into the Singaporean identity beyond the hard exterior. What is that soft flesh inside?” said Nevin. “I hope that my viewers will be able to reflect and look at their own identity, see themselves as someone bigger rather than an identity that is set out in society for them.”
In the Media Student Category, Chew Yun Yan’s documentary “His bottom line” features a 57-year old man’s unconventional journey to finding a wife. The Open Youth Category saw Timothy Koh directing a live action film “Happy Anniversary, Baby”, which touches on teenagers exploring the boundaries of love.
The reflective side of youths NYFA jury members were also heartened by how youths are using their art to spark conversations. Juan Foo, a jury member for the 6th year running, is encouraged by young filmmakers and their ability to address delicate topics in an enjoyable, yet tactful manner. He shared: “With the correct skillsets, youths are able to say their part in an informed and entertaining way using the visual medium. That demonstrates their sensitivity and sensibility.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the local film community has also continued to press on, having organised events such as NYFA’s first ever virtual conference, which saw a 130 per cent increase in attendance compared to last year. Filmmakers are also undeterred from making films from the confines of their homes during this period, such as with Christine Seow’s “Welcome Home”. The 26-year old was supposed to fly back to Beijing after celebrating Chinese New Year with her family, but when COVID-19 hit, her flight was cancelled. Stuck at home, she decided to document her niece’s first month in the world.
NYFA also announced the winner of its “Youth Inspiration Award” – a category introduced last year to recognise young industry professionals who have made exemplary contributions towards the film industry in Singapore. This year’s recipient is Huang Junxiang, a law-student turned filmmaker. Despite facing his own fair share of rejection early in his career, Junxiang strongly believes in helping to groom talents for the local film industry. Today, he plays an active role in encouraging storytellers from non-film background to pursue their passions.
For the first time, NYFA will be hosting a closed-door, online pre-show screening event for the nominated films. The event offers nominees and filmmakers the opportunity to learn from one another, instilling a greater appreciation for films, and fuelling the passion for “Singapore-flavoured” filmmaking.
The full list of NYFA 2020 nominees can be found here. Winners will be announced later in July.