New interactive film by Royston Tan aims to spark conversations on meth abuse among youth
SINGAPORE – The National Council Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) is officially launching its anti-drug campaign by showcasing Singapore’s first interactive short film.
Titled, HIGH, the film by award-winning director Royston Tan, will not be a “preachy” movie. It will allow the audience to make choices via an application and decide on the outcome for “Nick”, the main protagonist played by Shawn Thia.
Unlike past anti-drug messaging, HIGH has four endings, said Mr He Shuming, the film’s scriptwriter.
But Mr He, 34, said making the movie was an emotional journey as the characters were based on real life examples of people that he and Mr Tan knew.
When the pair were approached to produce the film in the middle of last year by Dentsu Aegis Network, which promotes the anti-drug campaign in partnership with NCADA, they agreed because both had friends who were addicted to meth.
Said Mr Tan, 43: “I’m not going to stand on the moral high ground but I do not want to lose another friend. I have already lost one. I don’t know if he’s alive or dead, or just totally disappeared (because of his meth addiction).”
The decision to feature an interactive film was considered by the authorities as something bold that would be more effective in engaging youth who may be susceptible to meth abuse, said Mr Firdaus Daud, council member of NCADA.
Figures showed meth users accounted for 73 per cent of new drug abusers arrested by the Central Narcotics Bureau in 2019. About 61 per cent of them were under 30 years old. In total, 3,524 abusers were arrested – the highest number in six years.
A scene from HIGH where a drug party is in full swing and the characters are feeling the effects of the drugs taken at the party. PHOTO: NCADA
Referring to the pre-launch screening of HIGH at ITE College East, ITE College Central and Singapore Polytechnic in January, Mr Firdaus said: “It has to draw their attention, engage them with a story, and through that the natural conversations will flow. That’s what we found out when we went to the schools.”
After the screening, the 5,162 students participated in a Safe Zone Discussion (SZD) where students shared freely their concerns about drug abuse.
At SZDs, facts about drugs are presented – separating fact from fiction, said Mr Firdaus.
At one session, Mr Firdaus said he was struck by one student’s experience. He shared that his failure to help a drug abuser friend resulted in the friend dying from a drug overdose.
Netizens will be able to ask questions anonymously about the short film or drug abuse through the high.sg micro site.
Like everything in life, decisions must be made, said Mr He.
“It’s about ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” said Mr He. “Every choice has a consequence. Ultimately you have nobody else to blame but yourself (if you make the wrong decisions).”
The NCADA’s anti-drug campaign kicks off on Thursday (March 19).
Correction note: An earlier version of this article said the film has five endings. The organisers have clarified that it should be four.