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Short Films Directed By Singapore Youths Tackle Xenophobia And Mental Illness

This film project by a group of youths is a small step towards the betterment of society.

Film still from Dolls Face (Credit: SG Creations)

Mental illness, xenophobia, cyberbullying. These real-world themes were each the focus of three short fictional films – except that instead of being made by adults, they were written, directed and performed by young people aged between six and 20.

The kick? One of the films, Dolls Fall, was rated NC16 so many of those involved in this project were not even allowed to watch the final product.

Initiated by non-profit Singapore Creations Etc. (SG Creations), itself a creative platform for the young to express their thoughts through artistic projects for theatre, film and music, Hot Off The Press! (Hop) is a media literacy project that had the youth combing news headlines in 2016, and thinking about how they affect them.

They went on to create these series of films with the intention of contributing to society by doing something creative and transformative about the state of our world.

Leading the charge is SG Creations’ artistic director Clare Schapiro. “I consider my role to be in ensuring an open environment that engages the participants, stimulates critical thinking, creativity, and nurtures collaboration and emotional intelligence,” says the Singapore-based Canadian.

Twelve months in the making, the shorts finally premiered in June 2017 and this month, they will be available for free across various digital platforms, such as SG Creations’ YouTube channel.

To say a project like HOP is important in today’s society is an understatement, which Schapiro agrees with wholeheartedly.

“Our impressions of world events from the media continue to instill fear and loathing, separating people everywhere. We believe mediated images are true. Errors in our beliefs lead to errors in our actions. We initiated the HOP project to encourage debate and discovery on how the news shapes us,” she says.

“Its soul was the process of discussion, debate, the search for understanding, the creative transcendence, and the earnest self-discovery of this eclectic group of young people representing Singapore’s diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.”

Undoubtedly, putting together something on this scale had its fair share of challenges. Schapiro cites juggling commitments and time, as well as financial support as the primary ones.

But true to the adage in the arts world, the show must go on. “Everyone involved in HOP was committed to bringing the films to fruition despite the challenges. We revised schedules, reached out to parents for additional help, held two fundraisers, and improvised sets, costumes and special effects,” she shares.

If you’re wondering about the wide age range too, Schapiro is undaunted by it and, in fact, has a philosophical approach, “There is a lot of dividing by age, gender, ability, & race during childhood. I believe we need more non-segregated environments so we may evolve as individuals.

“Mixing kids of different ages, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, with role-models, purpose, and respect, encourages sharing, learning, and a more enlightened understanding of the self and our world.”

Yet, despite the challenges, she admits that the project has been vastly rewarding. Among the list of reasons include listening to the young people discuss difficult issues with mutual respect, regardless of opposing opinions; experiencing their creativity as they developed the story ideas; discovering that the process helped them figure out where they stand and why, on any given topic.

Says Schapiro: “It takes an enormous amount of energy and courage to become someone of integrity, with heart and humility. These are the qualities that will shape their future relationships and their daily choices.”

SG Creations has three main projects in development for the remainder of the 2017-2018 season, including creating an original musical theatre piece on love. For more information, please visit