Young animator brings transgender story to DigiCon6 Asia competition

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Colours – Por follows a rainbow coloured flip-flop called Por. The friendless Por confines himself to his home as he looks out the window to see other one coloured flip-flops having fun. Photo supplied

‘Be your own colour, don’t let anyone define you.” This is the message of Colours – Por, a short animation by art school graduate Koa Senghuo and studio Phare Visual that emerged victorious at Cambodia DigiCon6 in August.

Following her victory in the competition, Senghuo is now preparing for the Digicon6 Asia animation contest in Hong Kong next month.

The 22-year-old transgender woman majored in animation at Battambang province’s Phare Visual and Applied Arts School, run by non-profit organisation Phare Ponleu Selpak.

Meaning ‘The Brightness of the Arts’ in Khmer, Phare Ponleu Selpak is a Cambodian non-profit arts school in Battambang offering support to children, youth and the surrounding communities through art, education and social support. The school welcomed its first students in 1995, with the number of students growing each year.

Senghuo is one graduate among the over 1,000 empowered each year by the organisation’s school programmes, which include performing, visual and applied arts classes and vocational training.

Her DigiCon6 award is the pride of the organisation as it celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

Phare Ponleu Selpak communications coordinator Morgane Darrasse told The Post: “Today, our Visual and Applied Arts school students can master skills in the fields of visual arts, graphic design and animation, whereas our Performing Arts school gives local youth access to the circus, theatre, dance and music.

“This creation hub is nested in our Visual and Applied Arts School building in Battambang , ensuring a virtuous circle of mutual development.

“To keep the light of Cambodian arts shining, we are counting on crucial overseas support from sister organisation Phare Ponleu Selpak France with whom we are working closely to develop an international outreach and funding opportunities.”

Senghuo said she felt empowered by the education provided to her by the organisation, with animation helping her promote fair treatment of the LGBTQ community.

Senghuo’s work in animation has also helped her family to understand and accept her gender identity.

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Senghuo is preparing for the Digicon6 Asia animation contest in Hong Kong next month. Photo supplied

“When I enrolled at Phare Ponleu Selpak in 2015 for my bachelor’s degree in animation, I started to get paid for work. I did well at school and never had my family worry about my life.

“Gradually, they started to accept who I am. They became more open. They acknowledged my fruitful results and let me follow my dream. It was quite a positive change.

“I’m really thankful to Phare Visual and Applied Arts School for giving me an opportunity to study animation. It really means a lot to me to have come this far. It’s a great milestone in my life.”

Colours – Por won an award at the 2019 Cambodia DigiCon6, a competition organised by National Television of Cambodia under the Ministry of Information.

Every year, an annual animation workshop and contest is held calling for video submissions, with the winner submitted to the international level competition DigiCon6 Asia – held this year in Hong Kong on November 27.

“I feel very excited to have won DigiCon6 Cambodia and proud to represent Cambodia in the upcoming international competition,” Senghuo said.

“When I submitted my animation to Cambodia DigiCon6 the duration of the clip was five minutes, but I will polish the story and improve its quality for the international competition. Hopefully, I will be able to extend it to around six minutes and that will be competitive enough among several countries in the region.”

Colours – Por follows a rainbow coloured flip-flop called Por. The friendless Por confines himself to his home as he looks out the window to see other one coloured flip-flops having fun. His only pleasure is putting on lipstick and long hair and looking in the mirror.

His mother, however, catches him and scalds him for dressing up as a woman.

What follows is Por’s efforts to hide his gender identity and fit in as he dips himself in blue paint and finds temporary joy in being accepted by other unicolour flip-flops.

But all this comes to an end when the rain washes off his paint, leaving him exposed and crying until his mother comes to comfort him.

“Just like in Colours – Por, at the beginning my parents, siblings and relatives could not accept my gender identity. They blamed me for how I identified.

“I used to try very hard to become what they wanted me to be, but I just could not do it. It’s not me. It’s not what I wanted for my life,” said the animator, who identifies as a woman.

“The aim of making this video is to empower the LGBTQ community. Some of them are still exploring. Some of them have not found their identity yet. They don’t know who they are. Hopefully, this animation will encourage them to be themselves. They should be proud of who they are and contribute to the country.”

Unlike most of the other candidates at Cambodia DigiCon6 who competed in groups, Senghuo completed her animation alone.

She spent six months creating Colours-Por from scratch. Everything from the concept, background, composing, editing, directing, storyboard and animation were done with the supervision of her seniors at Phare.

“I cannot say what I’m expectating from the upcoming international competition in Hong Kong. For now, I’m quite content that this short animation has gathered a lot of interest from the public. My teachers at Phare gave this animation a high assessment, which gives me confidence and motivation to improve it further”

Having won Cambodia DigiCon6 this year, she said her work has helped generate more interest in the social issues facing the LGBTQ community.

“Recently, my animation video was widely shared and discussed by the international animation community online. What attracted them is the story and its value in society. The LGBTQ community is very interested in this Colours-Por animation.

“I have personally gone through this life experience. I really want to share the feeling of being discriminated against and bullied. It felt suffering, but now I feel free and empowered,” Senghuo said.

Senghuo’s short animation Colours-Por can be viewed on Cambodia DigiCon 2016’s Facebook page (@Cambodiadigicon).