In conjunction with the United Nation’s International Day of Happiness on March 20, the world’s first Happiness Film Festival explores what happiness means to vulnerable and marginalised groups

One of the keys to finding happiness is perspective, whether shifting your own or looking at life from the perspective of others. For happiness can mean different things to everyone.

And after the year that we’ve had, the topic is more relevant than ever. That is why the theme of this year’s Happiness Film Festival is “An Inclusive Journey Towards Happiness”, looking at happiness from the perspective of vulnerable and marginalised groups—those hardest hit during the pandemic—and the ways we can better support them.

Organised by the Singapore-based social enterprise Happiness Initiative, which sets out to translate the science of happiness and well-being into actionable insights for optimal societal outcomes, this year’s festival returns from March 19 to 28, at Filmgarde Bugis+.

And for the second time, the Happiness Initiative has partnered with the National Youth Council to discuss the topic of mental health, which remains a key concern among our youth, who continue to feel anxious over future uncertainties—and need to feel supported and know where to seek help when needed.

The film festival will look at happiness from six different perspectives: migrant workers, underprivileged families, neurodiverse people, ex-offenders, the elderly and youths. Each group will be represented by an international film and a local short film and followed by a post-screening dialogue with community leaders sharing additional insights.

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Here are the six films (and more) to watch:

1. John Denver Trending

Date March 19

Theme Youths

A poor 14-year-old boy is falsely accused of stealing his classmate’s iPad. He is caught on video brawling with this classmate—and this video turns viral in the worst ways.

Accompanying short film 2.0 by Dylan Tan
A top influencer with a secret to hide is not risking losing her followers, and even going as far as to strip naked online. She neglects her only family until she discovers what her mother would do for her only daughter.

2. Still Human

Date March 20

Theme Migrant Workers

Two strangers—a paralysed and hopeless Hong Kong man and his new Filipino domestic worker—living under the same roof learn how to face the different seasons of life.

Accompanying short film Bangla by Idette Chen
An injured migrant worker ends up moonlighting at a struggling hawker stall in his desperation to send money home.

(Related: Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away is Set For a Stage Production in Japan in 2022)

3. A Man Called Ove

Date March 21

Theme Elderly

Ove is a curmudgeon, the kind who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars. People call him “the bitter neighbour from hell”, until a young family moves next door and a comical and heart-warming tale unfolds of unkempt cats and unexpected friendships.

Accompanying short film Pigeonhole by Lim Mei Fong
Two flatmates in a one-room rental flat work through their differences, but one eventually moves out, leaving the other alone.

4. The Specials

Date March 26

Theme Neurodiverse People

One takes care of autistic young people, and the ether helps young people with difficult conditions to find their place in life. When their paths cross, new worlds open up for all of them.

Accompanying short film White Carnations by Tang Wan Xin
A single mother is humiliated when she tries to get her son with special needs into a mainstream primary school.

(Related: Movie Review: Why Disney's Raya and The Last Dragon is a Must-Watch Film)

5. Skid Row Marathon

Date March 27

Theme Ex-offenders

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge leads the long-distance runner's club and raise spirits of  people who are homeless, addicted or coming out of the prison system.

Accompanying short film Take me Away by Sun Ji
An ex-offender’s struggle against stigmatisation with every step he takes to turn over a new leaf.

6. Sorry We Missed You

Date March 28

Theme Underprivileged Families

A family’s uphill battle against debt leads to an opportunity with a shiny new van and the chance to run a franchise as a self-employed delivery driver.

Accompanying short film Away from Ayah by Amelia Tan
A look at a 12-year-old boy coping with his father’s absence, this film explores the emotional impact of a parent’s incarceration on a child.

Happiness Film Festival runs from March 19 to 28, at Filmgarde Bugis+.

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