23-Year-Old’s Animation About Sex Ed In Singapore Lands Yugo Bafta Student Awards Nomination

SINGAPORE — It was 4 a.m. when Calleen Koh, 23, received a notification on Facebook — another filmmaker had been nominated for a Yugo Bafta Student Award and tagged her as another nominee.

“It was really funny because I didn’t even learn it from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) itself,” said Ms Koh, animator and designer at local animation studio Finding Pictures.

Although she knew most people would be sound asleep, Ms. Koh immediately contacted her friends, family and teachers to inform them that her short film, To Kill the Birds and the Bees, had been nominated in the animation category.

Not only did her film stand out from the 715 entries received by Bafta this year, but she was also the only Singaporean and one of the few Asians nominated.

Only two people were awake to join her in the early morning celebrations late last month – her boyfriend and her professor from LaSalle College of the Arts.

“My lecturer was like ‘Oh my God!’ (via text) and told me he had never been happier waking up in the middle of the night,” she said.

Although Ms. Koh may not have made it to the final, she was grateful to be nominated for her short film.

“Being shortlisted among all the films around the world is already pretty cool. I just thought about entering the finale as a bonus,” she said.

TALKING ABOUT BIRDS AND BEES

Ms. Koh’s 11-minute animated short, To Kill the Birds and the Bees, is about sex education in Singapore.

The animation follows a pair of elementary school twins, a high school prefect, and a conservative housewife, each encountering a sexual situation during their day.

Having seen more sex crimes in 2019 and 2020, especially in universities, Ms Koh said she wanted to get to the root of the problem through her animation.

“I was very annoyed by all the comments on the news articles about the sexual harassment cases. There were a lot of judgmental attitudes and people dictating what the victim should have done… which makes me sad,” she said.

It was created as a graduation project with two other classmates in 2020.

They conducted a research survey involving “hundreds of people” to understand attitudes towards sexual harassment in Singapore.

Some of the interviewees even shared their own experiences of sexual harassment.

“The whole process (of making the film) was very difficult for a team of three people because we were doing everything and creating everything in just seven months,” said Ms. Koh, who was among others the director, producer and screenwriter. of the movie. .

Their efforts paid off. Apart from the Yugo Bafta Student Awards nomination, the film has been screened around the world, including at the Stuttgart International Film Festival Oscar qualifying festival in Germany and the Toronto International Festival of Animation Arts in Canada.

Although the film focuses on the sex education system in Singapore, Ms Koh was surprised by the positive reactions from international audiences, particularly in Europe.

“I was surprised to learn that many Europeans find the film relevant because I thought they were much more liberal than us. Some Germans I met at the Internationales Trickfilm-Festival in Stuttgart said that the Sex education in Germany was about the same, which I found very surprising.

“But it was really heartening to hear international audiences laughing and gasping while watching my film at the screenings, I’m glad it resonated with people beyond Singapore’s borders.”

In Singapore, she also won three awards at the National Youth Film Awards in the Media Student category for Best Art Director, Best Screenplay and Best Original Score.

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