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  • Fundamentally Happy

    Singapore | 73 min | English & Malay | English Subtitles | HD

    • Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 2015 (Competing for the NETPAC award)
    • Hanoi International Film Festival 2016 (Competition)
    • SalaMindanaw Asian Film Festival 2015 (Asian Competition)
    • Thessaloniki LGBT Film Festival 2016 (Honorable Mention by Audience)
    • Jogja NETPAC Film Festival 2015
    • Lima Independent Film Festival 2016
    • World Film Festival Bangkok 2016
    • Luang Prabang Film Festival 2016
    • Southeast Asian Film Festival 2015, Singapore Art Museum
    • National University of Singapore Arts Festival 2016
    • Wee Kim Wee Centre, Singapore Management University
    • LaSalle College of the Arts Singapore
    • The Projector, Singapore

    “With its wrenching psychodrama and scalpel-edged dialogue, the film’s moody cinematography and varied close-ups bring viewers further into the story’s heart of darkness, breaking down the distance of the stage and cinema’s fourth wall, and creating its own form of detachment. An unflinching look at the consequences of abuse, Fundamentally Happy explores without judgment or condemnation critical issues such as trust, memory, relationships and consent.” – Philip Cheah

    “An intelligently written and beautifully acted film that manages to treat a highly controversial subject both artfully and compassionately. The director is adept at exploring changes in mood, reflection, light, and space.” – Chris Fujiwara

    “A remarkably skillful and humane treatment of the original play.” – Professor Kenneth Paul Tan


    Twenty years ago, Habiba and Eric were neighbours. When Eric revisits her home to find her still living there with her husband, what seems like a friendly reunion turns into the gradual revelation of a painful secret from the past. An unflinching look at the consequences of abuse, Fundamentally Happy explores, without judgment or condemnation, critical issues such as trust, memory, relationships and consent. This is a film adaptation of Fundamentally Happy, a 2006 award-wininng play by Haresh Sharma and Alvin Tan.

    Director’s Statement

    Without theatre, there’s no cinema. So much of what we know of cinema today – performance, storytelling through space, light and sound design, has its roots in the many kinds of theatre that precede cinema and are still innovating today. Just like the chamber films of Ingmar Bergman, we imagine a cinema that embraces the theatricality and that distills the essence of an original text. That this is also cinema – that is the possibility that we are after, as we adapt a play that already has a very strong and clear vision: two persons trapped in a house of their memories, two persons having a conversation after not seeing each other for 20 years, their recollections the mirror image of the other’s – images of the same thing but from laterally opposite perspectives.

    We kept the dialogue verbatim. Haresh has the rare gift of capturing the way Singaporeans speak. His use of rhythm, grammar, syntax, and speech pattern to distinguish the two characters is integral to the work. It enabled us to imagine a film that is not just heard but listened to.

    We are interested to make a film about the portraits of Eric and Habiba. Faces are mysterious and truthful at the same time. When you look at someone long enough, you can see their stories. We seldom put both characters in the same frame – you see a person and hear the other offscreen. You do not know if they are talking to each other or to themselves. Did Eric really confess to Habiba? Did Habiba really hurl those unkind accusations at Eric? We created these offscreen spaces to hold their years of anger, betrayal, fears, and longing. To make it a little kinder, gentler for Eric and Habiba.

    Shooting in a real two-storey terrace house, we wanted to bring the audience around the house of their memories and in particular, we used the perspective of the staircase to create the gaze of Uncle Ismail who haunted the two characters (low angle); and the gaze at Uncle Ismail whom both characters longed for (high angle). So it was a haunting and a longing from the perspective of the staircase. With that, we situated the main action around the staircase.

    In making this film, we hope to examine the complex issue of abuse with the grace of love.

    Director’s Biography

    Tan Bee Thiam and Lei Yuan Bin have worked together on various projects produced under 13 Little Pictures, an independent film collective whose films have garnered critical acclaim. Fundamentally Happy is the first film they co-directed together. Tan is an alumnus of Berlinale Talents, Rotterdam Lab and European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs. Lei was conferred the Young Artist Award in 2012 by the National Arts Council, Singapore’s highest award for young arts practitioner.

    Technical Specifications

    Country of production: Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong
    Running length: 73 minutes
    Year of production: 2015
    Rating: NC16 (Singapore), Banned (Malaysia)
    Language: English, Malay
    Subtitles: English
    Original Format: Digital
    Screening Format: DCP
    Aspect Ratio: 1:1.85
    Sound: Stereo, 5,1


    Habiba Hj Salim Adibah Noor
    Eric Sim Joshua Lim


    Production: 13 Little Pictures

    Co-Production: White Light

    Directed by Tan Bee Thiam, Lei Yuan Bin
    Written by Haresh Sharma, Alvin Tan
    Executive Producer Tan Bee Thiam
    Producers Tan Bee Thiam, Lei Yuan Bin
    Co-Producers Ken Hui, Lee Chatametikool
    Associate Producers Dan Lim, Glen Goei
    Production Manager Colin Huang
    Production Assistants Fiona Lai Siow Mei
    Charles Looi Chun Hoe
    Chew Keng Hao
    Director of Photography Christopher Doyle
    First Camera Assistant Shyan Tan
    Second Camera Assistants Jonathan Goh
    Lau Hong Hu
    Lee Feng Nian
    Louise Evangeline Ng
    Gaffers Chia Meng Chee
    Colin Peh
    Jon Keng
    Jaryl Lim
    Khairul Amin
    Grip Daryl Ong
    Derrick Loo
    Dazfirul Haniff
    Jason Ye
    Johan Sue
    Production Designers Lei Yuan Bin, Vivien Koh
    Art Assistants Natalie Khoo
    Teo Qi Yu
    Colin Huang
    Khor Serene
    Chew Keng Hao
    Tan Jingliang
    Make Up Jeffrey Linus Lee
    Costume Irene Lee
    Production Sound Mixer Jenn Hui
    Boom Operator Susanne Soon
    Edited by Tan Bee Thiam, Lei Yuan Bin
    Data Wrangler Liao Jiekai
    Post Production White Light
    Lee Chatametikool
    Max Tersch
    Gigs Siripun
    Colorist Chaitawat Trisarnsri
    Sound Designer Maiken Hansen
    Foley Artist Lim Ting Li
    Foley Recordist Filipe Paszkiewicz
    Music Composer Teo Wei Yong
    Set Photographer Ivan Tan
    Making of Video Natalie Khoo, Teo Qi Yu
    Special Thanks The Necessary Stage
    The Kow Family
    Aaron Ng
    Aidli ‘Alin’ Mosbit
    Chua En Lai
    Chris Fujiwara
    Daniel Hui
    Eugene Phua
    Jenny Ong
    Johnny Ng
    John Badalu
    Khor Serene
    Liew Seng Tat
    Lim Jia Jia
    Loo Zihan
    Michael Wang
    Michael J. Werner
    Norman Wang
    Paolo Bertolin
    Philip Cheah
    Tam Tsui Yan
    Teo Swee Leng
    Thomas Chia

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