Like father, like son

Lin Lin Khaing

Up-and-coming animator Aw Pe Kyal, Nyan Kyal Say won the March 13 Award at the Third Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival last month for his three-minute-long animated film. “I Wanna Go to School” zooms in on the issue of children’s rights violations in Myanmar shamed by the sordid realities of child trafficking, child labour and child solders. He’s a medical student and an animator whose lifelong interest in cartoon art has been shaped by his acclaimed cartoonist father.

He took time off recently to talk with Myanmar Eleven about the importance of animations as a vehicle for highlighting the social ills in his homeland.

What was the inspiration behind “I Wanna Go to School”?

I have some personal experiences when it comes to children’s rights violations which I have been reading about in newspapers. I have seen many children working as housemaids in my neighbourhood. They have to carry heavy shopping baskets [during the daily market round]. Some have to work as waiters. I often do philanthropic work so I have seen many children at orphanages. Some poor children have to struggle hard without even getting a chance to be accommodated in an orphanage. These are my personal experiences. I have also been reading about child soldiers lately. So the film owes its inspiration to these personal encounters.

Was it hard relaying your message to the audience within three minutes?

The film was made in just one month. I even thought about scrapping the project because my partners were too busy but a friend kept encouraging me. So I told myself ‘I’ll definitly do it’. We brainstormed quite a lot after we decided to go ahead. I had to try to create the film within three minutes and to get across a message to the audience in that short time. 

Why did you submit the film to the Human Rights Film Festival?

I attended the film festival last year. It has good aims and features animations. I’ve been thinking about joining the festival since last year. 

How do you feel about winning the award?

I didn’t expect to win an award even after I’d submitted the film. I’m happy that I won it. The production was a gruelling test of my physical and mental strength.  I’m happy that my parents have been very supportive of this film.

When were you drawn to animation?

This is my first animated film. I’ve done lots of studying of animation right from age 11 or 12.

Your father is a cartoonist so what have you learned from him?

Rather than learning directly from him, I grew up seeing him doing this work every day so over the years I’ve already learned many things from him. He collected many books so I had easy access to his world of knowledge without making an effort.

As you’re still studying at Medical University, any plans to combine education with art in the future?

I’m thinking about that. The country’s lacking in health knowledge so I plan to do educational cartoons and animations to raise awareness of important health and environment issues.