New short film about pupils and PSLE stress to be released this month

A scene from PSLE-Go: Zihui is like many pupils who feel the pressure to do well for the PSLE. She writes in her diary how she feels.
A scene from PSLE-Go: Zihui is like many pupils who feel the pressure to do well for the PSLE. She writes in her diary how she feels.PHOTO: PSLE-GO/ FACEBOOK

A new short film about pupils and PSLE stress will be released online on Nov 10.

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER)- Teen suicides so concerned them that they made a film addressing the issue and are releasing it just before the PSLE results are announced later this month.

Mr Jerome Lau, 39, and Mr Stanley Yap, 42, the owners of Splash Productions, started the company initiative. The actors and others involved donated their services because they wanted to help teens in need.

The English language film, titled Juanzi2: PSLE-Go, is about two PSLE pupils and is due for release on Nov 10. Juanzi means "exhausted child" in Mandarin and looks similar to the Chinese character for "exam paper".

Mr Lau, the managing director, and Mr Yap, creative director, made the original Juanzi short film about children and their academic dreams in 2012.

The mobile game, Pokemon Go, was referenced because the creators of the film thought the initial hype of the game in Singapore reminded them of the paper chase.

The idea for the film was sparked in early February when Mr Lau and Mr Yap found out from a close friend that the daughter of someone he knew had committed suicide.

Concerned, they decided to find out more about teen suicides.

They were shocked to find out from a Samaritans of Singapore report that teen suicide rates in 2015 were the highest in 15 years, with 27 people aged 10 to 19 committing suicide.

"Our first thought was, wow, there are actually a lot of young people committing suicide, it's just that they are not made known to the public," said Mr Lau.

Then in August, two students from a top JC killed themselves within 10 days of each other. This provided the impetus to start.

Mr Lau, who is married with two children, a 12-year-old son who has just finished his PSLE and a nine-year-old daughter who is in Primary 3, became the executive producer of the film.

He said: "We thought that we really needed to do something about this.

"We wanted to start a conversation... To try and help parents manage their mindsets and expectations with their children's results."

FEARS

PSLE-Go is about Zihui and Justin, two 12-year-olds in Singapore who are preparing to take their PSLE.

Zihui, the lead, is having a particularly hard time coping with exam stress because she fears disappointing her parents.

The only person who notices is Justin, her classmate, who tries to convince people that she needs help.

The 25-minute short film will be released on Nov 10, and can be viewed for free at www.juanzi.sg before the release of the PSLE results, tentatively expected to be between Nov 24 and 28.

When asked why the filmmakers decided to use PSLE as a focal point in their film, Mr Yap, who is single, said: "The PSLE is the first major milestone a kid has to go through.

"Parents should not use this first milestone as an indication of success as the child might blossom at a later stage in life."

Everybody who was involved in the film - all 25 employees at Splash Production and about 50 actors - did it for free.

Filming took three weeks and it was a busy time for lead actress Zihui Zhou and her parents, who were acting in the film.

Madam Yar Ai Lin, 43, Zihui's mum, plays her mum in the film.

Madam Yar, who is a regional head leading a team of engineers, told The New Paper about how she juggled work and acting.

She said: "One of the hardest days was when I took an overnight flight from working in Tokyo and reached Singapore on Friday morning. Filming was in the afternoon and I didn't have enough sleep."

Madam Yar was supposed to have taken a flight back to Singapore the next morning, but she decided to take the overnight flight because of the film.

It was an important project for the mother, who has a daughter in Primary 6 and a son in Primary 4.

She said: "When I read in the news about the 11-year-old boy who committed suicide because of his exam grades, I was very sad because I feel that there are a lot more important things in life.

"I hope the film encourages conversation between parents and educators about this issue."

HELPLINES

If you are in emotional distress, you can get help from:

Samaritans of Singapore (24-hour hotline)

1800-221-4444

Tinkle Friend

1800-274-4788

Singapore Association for Mental Health

1800-283-7019

Care Corner Counselling Centre (in Mandarin)

1800-353-5800

Mental Health Helpline

6389-2222

Aware Helpline

1800-774-5935