Private Project

Tiong Bahru Social Club

Ah Bee goes on a comedic odyssey through Tiong Bahru Social Club, a data-driven project to create the happiest neighbourhood in the world. Little by little Ah Bee’s encounters with the neighbourhood’s residents reveal the absurdity of life.

  • Tan Bee Thiam
  • Tan Bee Thiam
  • Antti Toivonen
    Fucking Bunnies
  • Huang Junxiang
    Apprentice, Ramen Teh
  • Thomas Pang
    Key Cast
    "Ah Bee"
  • Goh Guat Kian
    Key Cast
  • Jalyn Han
    Key Cast
    "Ms Wee"
  • Noorlinah Mohamed
    Key Cast
  • Jo Tan
    Key Cast
  • Maimunah Bagharib
    Key Cast
  • Mochi
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 28 minutes 22 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    August 28, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    500,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    Chinese, English, Malay, Tamil
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Busan International Film Festival
    Korea, Republic of
    October 26, 2020
    World Premiere
  • Singapore International Film Festival
    November 26, 2020
    Singapore Premiere
    Opening Film and in Asian Feature Competition
  • Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival
    November 7, 2020
    NETPAC Award nominee
  • Osaka Asian Film Festival
    March 5, 2021
    Japan Premiere
    Main Competition
  • Darwin International Film Festival
    May 4, 2021
    Opening Film
  • Fargo Fantastic Film Festival
    United States
    October 18, 2021
    Roger & Julie Corman Award
  • Los Angeles Asia-Pacific Film Festival
    Los Angeles
    United States
    September 25, 2021
    Special Jury Award (for World Building)
  • Fantasia Film Festival
    August 5, 2021
    North American Premiere
    Camera Lucida Competition
  • New York Asian Film Festival
    New York
    United States
    August 6, 2021
    US Premiere
    Uncaged Competition for Best Feature Film
  • Imagine Science Film Festival
    New York
    United States
    October 20, 2021
    Science New Wave Competition
  • Feratum, International Fantastic Film Festival
    October 30, 2021
    South American Premiere
    International Competition
  • Sci-Fi London - London International Festival Of Science Fiction And Fantastic Film
    United Kingdom
    October 22, 2021
    UK Premiere
  • Leeds International Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    November 9, 2021
    Official Selection
  • Braunschweig International Film Festival
    November 6, 2021
    Germany Premiere
    Official Selection
  • San Diego Asian Film Festival
    San Diego
    United States
    November 3, 2021
    Official Selection
  • Hong Kong Asian Film Festival
    Hong Kong
    Hong Kong
    November 7, 2021
    Hong Kong Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Hawaii International Film Festival
    United States
    November 4, 2021
    Official Selection
  • Guam International Film Festival
    United States
    November 13, 2021
    Grand Jury Prize nominee
  • Dharamsala International Film Festival
    November 4, 2021
    Indian Premiere
Director Biography - Tan Bee Thiam

Tan Bee Thiam directs, produces, writes and edits. He is an alumnus of Berlinale Talents, Rotterdam Lab, and European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs (EAVE). Based in Singapore, he directed Kopi Julia (2013), one of 13 short films personally selected by Apichatpong Weerasethakul for the Sharjah Biennial. His co-directorial feature, Fundamentally Happy (2015), is a film adaptation of the 2006 award-winning play, was shot by Christopher Doyle and premiered at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. Tiong Bahru Social Club is his first solo feature film, which premiered at the Busan International Film Festival 2020 and was the Opening Film of the Singapore International Film Festival 2020.

He founded the 13 Little Pictures, an independent film collective and recent films he produced include Daniel Hui's DEMONS (Berlinale Forum 2019) and Lei Yuan Bin's 03-FLATS (Venice Architecture Biennale 2016). From 2014 to 2017, he was the film curator for the Singapore International Festival of Arts.

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Director Statement

The ambition to be the happiest neighbourhood in the world is a perfect irony. Today, the United Nations measures happiness as the new GDP, happiness is researched seriously in Harvard and a happiness curriculum is rolled out nationally in India. But how does one quantify happiness to measure it? And once we can quantify it, do we need to be happier than others to be truly happy?

Inspired by comedy maestros such as Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati, Tiong Bahru Social Club is a satire that serves as a reflection of the absurdities of modern Singaporean society. To create this whimsical world, the locations, sets, props, costumes, hair and makeup are designed with precise colour coordination and uncanny symmetry, as if there’s an invisible hand shaping a bonsai.

I am influenced by the profound wisdom of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. In the universe of Tiong Bahru Social Club, there is a coexistence of the yin and the yang. The film is structured into two halves. It opens with a question – To Be or Not to Be(e) and ends with the song, Choices by Charlie Lim. The first half is about filling the glass full and the second half is about emptying it. When the main character submits himself to the Taoist Philosophy of Non-action (wu wei), things come full circle. This also informs the music and aesthetics: cheerful lullabies with Kraftwerk-inspired robot pop, retro-futuristic visuals of the past imagining the future, stacked like an augmented reality landscape.

At the heart of the film, Tiong Bahru Social Club is a story that celebrates the courage of an Everyman to drop out of the rat race and see the world from the perspective of a cat, the ultimate Tao master.

As a filmmaker, I am concerned with what people remember and what they forget.