'Hush Baby' by Tan Wei Keong - SIFF Shorts Finalists

Wei Keong's works remind of how a strong message or moral can enrichen or provide some kind of 'chord' to a cutesy animation piece, as in a musical chord. His previous work 'White' delved into personal identity and acceptance and it was delivered succinctly in a 3 min long piece. 'Hush Baby' blurs the barrier between the creation and the act of creating. With the masterful strokes of coloured pencils, a 'baby' is born on paper. Enrichened with sound design, the 2-dimensional baby, drawn with few strokes (in a minimalistic style) virtually comes alive.

The sparseness of the background (plain white) is part of the narrative. And it also hides a colourful world underneath, represented by colour bars. So occasionally, our 'itchy-handed' baby would try to peel off the white canvas, revealing the more colourful interiors. Unfortunately, the representation of this was a little too swift, giving us only cursory glances. I had very little time to register my own interpretation of it.

Speaking of my interpretation, I saw a lot of socio-political messages in it, peculiar to the Singapore context. Perhaps, it was this that made me understand the film a little quicker. Haven't our parents always been vigilant on keeping out bad influences? And that pair of scissors! How could I not think about censorhsip? Hush Baby married both theme and form in a way that was ingenious and also befitting - a story of about creation and control that occurs in a white piece of paper, possibly a metaphorical canvas as well.

Somewhere in the middle of the film, as the pair of scissors was ruthlessly cutting off the baby's roaming space, I began to wonder where the baby would escape to. Or if the colourful world beneath would get the better of the white, authoritarian world our baby lives in. Or the baby would just disappear off into a third dimension. Perhaps, if either of these things happened, it would introduced too many unresolved issues into the piece. Instead, Wei Keong has opted for less surprise and a defeated ending - that 'Baby' is tamed into accepting his 4 walls, represented by the eventual shape of the canvas that's left after the brutal snipping. The magic touch in this was perhaps the loss of a voice by the baby, who just has to stop whining and be contented with compromise.

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