Singapore directors to appeal Malaysian ban of their film Fundamentally Happy

Singapore directors to appeal Malaysian ban of their film Fundamentally Happy

Filmmakers Tan Bee Thiam and Lei Yuan Bin tell Channel NewsAsia's Genevieve Loh they are getting advice on the issue.

A still from the movie Fundamentally Happy

SINGAPORE: Singapore filmmakers Tan Bee Thiam and Lei Yuan Bin on Friday (Oct 21) said they are considering appealing Malaysian authorities' decision to ban their film Fundamentally Happy over cultural sensitivities.

“We were very disappointed when we first heard,” Tan told Channel NewsAsia on Friday (Oct 21). “Right now, we are trying to figure out the appeal process, because all the forms are in Malay. We are looking for someone to properly translate (them) for us.”

Fundamentally Happy tells the story of two former neighbours - a Malay woman and a Chinese man - who reconnect after 20 years. The happy reunion turns into a revelation of a painful secret from the past as the film explores uncomfortable issues of abuse, trust, memory, relationship and consent.

News of the ban was revealed on Thursday on the official Facebook page for the film. “Fundamentally Happy has been disallowed to be screened in cinemas by the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia (LPF)," the post stated. "LPF has said that the film contains 'elements that may be sensitive to the feelings of Malaysian Malays and may be interpreted by Malaysian Malays as an attempt to reflect the community’s attitude towards those who abuse the weak to fulfil their desires'."

The film was adapted by Tan and Lei from the 2006 play of the same title, written by Haresh Sharma and produced by homegrown theatre company The Necessary Stage. The play has been staged twice in Singapore with an M18 rating, as well as at The Actor's Studio in Kuala Lumpur without any cuts, advisory or rating.

“Haresh (Sharma) and Alvin (Tan, Artistic Director of The Necessary Stage) have been very supportive and great,” said filmmaker Tan. “They are guiding us through all this and we are working together as a team. And that includes our actress Adibah Noor from Malaysia.”

“We are deeply disappointed that our Malaysian audience is being denied the opportunity to watch Fundamentally Happy in the cinema,” wrote the filmmakers on Facebook. “This film was based on an award-winning play that was a result of months of research and consultation with the community. The play and the film are, above all, works of social relevance and compassion. We were hoping to share this film with our audience in Malaysia so that we could have a conversation on the important issues brought up by the film.”

The movie was rated NC-16 by the Board of Film Censors in Singapore and will be shown at *SCAPEmedia in Singapore on Nov 5. The filmmakers noted that the work "has not been disallowed" in any country other than Malaysia and will be in competition at the Hanoi International Film Festival next month.

Source: CNA/gl