Singaporean film Fundamentally Happy banned in Malaysia; directors planning to appeal
A still from Fundamentally Happy Facebook

Singaporean film Fundamentally Happy about a friendly reunion between a young Chinese man and an elderly Malay woman has been banned by Malaysian film authorities due to cultural sensitivities.

Filmmakers Tan Bee Thiam and Lei Yuan Bin said that they are planning to appeal Malaysian authorities' decision to ban their film.

"We were very disappointed when we first heard," Tan told Channel NewsAsia.

"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," they said.

According to them, the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia (LPF) 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".

On Thursday, the news of the ban was released on the official Facebook page of the film saying, "Fundamentally Happy has been disallowed to be screened in cinemas by the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia (LPF)."

Fundamentally Happy narrates a story of Malay woman and a Chinese man who were former neighbours. They meet after 20 years. Their reunion soon leads a revelation of a painful secret from the past exploring uncomfortable issues of abuse, trust, memory, relationship and consent.

The film is based on a 2006 play which was produced by homegrown theatre company, The Necessary Stage and written by Haresh Sharma and Alvin Tan. The play has already been staged in Singapore twice with an M18 rating and was also staged in Kuala Lumpur in 2007 at The Actor's Studio, without cuts, advisory or rating to critical success.

"Haresh (Sharma) and Alvin (Tan, Artistic Director of The Necessary Stage) have been very supportive and great," Thiam said.

"They are guiding us through all this and we are working together as a team. And that includes our actress Adibah Noor from Malaysia," he added.

On Facebook, the filmmakers posted: "We are deeply disappointed that our Malaysian audience is being denied the opportunity to watch Fundamentally Happy in the cinema. 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."

On 5 November, the movie is scheduled to be screened at *SCAPEmedia in Singapore with a NC-16 rating. The filmmakers also pointed that Malaysia is the only country to ban this film.

Fundamentally Happy will be in competition at the Hanoi International Film Festival in November.