Complexities of the human psyche unravel in award-winning films by LASALLE graduates


04 October 2019

Filming on location at a one-room rental flat for Pigeonhole.

Since its inception in 2015, the National Youth Film Awards has been a platform for industry partners and Institutes of Higher Learning to nurture young media talents. Every year, LASALLE students are encouraged to submit their final year works to gain exposure (and hopefully recognition) as well as learn from their peers.

This year, among the 15 recipients who stood proud on stage as they received trophies at the National Youth Film Awards 2019, three were graduates from LASALLE College of the Arts. Earning top accolades were Syamim Ameen and Lim Mei Fong from BA(Hons) Film and Zhen Ying Jie from BA(Hons) Animation Art whose thesis work stood out from the other 446 entries and impressed industry stalwarts. 

Screenwriter and sound recordist Syamin, who won ‘Best Sound Design’ for psychological horror film Farah, is grateful for the recognition and feels encouraged by the platform for young filmmakers. He feels that sound design can be more nuanced than most people realise, and that jump scares are not always the winning formula.

“You can only use so many screams and sudden noises before it gets irritating. Horror is the perversion of the mundane, twisted expressions of reality. I find that to really get under people’s skin, the most ordinary sounds work best,” he explained.

A true connoisseur of the horror genre, Syamin cites H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu and Stephen King’s It as his favourites, He is looking forward to a career in writing where he can tell even more stories.

In the same vein, Mei Fong wants to use the power of documentaries to shed light on human narratives. Her investigative look into issues faced by two elderly women co-living in a one-room rental flat earned her the ‘Best Documentary’ award for Pigeonhole.

The short film offers an intimate glimpse into communal living between strangers in Singapore. Making the film was far from smooth-sailing: the young filmmaker faced numerous obstacles such as language barriers, lack of access to information and support from social service agencies. But her persistence paid off. 

“Unlike fiction films where a lot of planning pays off, documentaries are different. To keep it authentic, we shot with minimal scripting and interference from the crew. This meant a lot of waiting around for moments to happen and unfold naturally. Sometimes you get nothing at all, sometimes you get more than what you asked for,” said Mei Fong.

Despite the risks and anxieties, Mei Fong is grateful for the trust her team placed in her, especially when the final product made it all worthwhile.

Ying Jie’s animated film To Be Apart is a cautionary tale about the consequences of trying too hard to fit in. For his world-building and environment design, Ying Jie was awarded ‘Best Art Direction’. 

He and his teammates had struggled with reaching a consensus on the story angle, but eventually worked through their differences after realising that they shared common experiences relating to self-identity. He echoes the importance of collaboration and communication with peers, adding, “All of us have roles to play so no one is more important than another.” 

Viewing animation as a highly creative though challenging medium, as one has to rely solely on imagination “to create magic”, Ying Jie intends to continue using the art form to help others find voice and solace.