Short film hopes to raise awareness of social stigma faced by those with cleft conditions

Nichelle Seow plays the main character in the short film titled My Face, which describes the psychological and emotional challenges faced by children with cleft and craniofacial anomalies.
Nichelle Seow plays the main character in the short film titled My Face, which describes the psychological and emotional challenges faced by children with cleft and craniofacial anomalies.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - They are stared at and get asked embarrassing questions - all because they were born with a cleft condition that results in facial deformities.

A short film, titled My Face, describes the psychological and emotional challenges faced by children with cleft and craniofacial anomalies.

It was launched on Saturday (July 13) at Far East Square.

The film, presented by the department of plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), hopes to raise awareness about the social stigma that those with cleft conditions face.

KKH manages about 100 new cases of cleft conditions every year, said Dr Gale Lim, head and consultant at KKH's department of plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery.

The main objective of the film is not to focus just on cleft, but on all physical differences, including acquired deformities and congenital ones, said Dr Lim, 40.

Her experience working with children with scars and deformities spurred her to initiate the project, which was filmed over two days, she said.

"There is still a stigma because people who do not appear to look normal are still being treated unkindly," she said.

Even family members sometimes may unintentionally make insensitive remarks that further impact their self-esteem, she added.

Nichelle Seow, 13, can identify with the main character she plays in the short film.

She said she gets teased and called names, resulting in periods of low self-esteem.

Born with a cleft lip, she had corrective surgery at about four to five months old and scar therapy after that.

But the Secondary 1 student at Evergreen Secondary School has learnt to take negative comments in her stride.

"What's the point of letting the hate get to you?" she said.