The heartland film is a film that typically portrays the prosaic lives of everyday Singaporeans. Unlike Hollywood’s protagonists, the protagonists in Singaporean films are unremarkable in every way. They do not possess heroic or mythical qualities in a Joseph Campbellian sense.  Or are they somehow fulfilling vague notions of a Singapore Dream.

The defining quality of the heartland film is that the characters in them are, in a sense, always found to be struggling with everyday issues of love, money, jobs, education etc. Indeed, Singapore cinema can be defined as a cinema of the “everyday citizen”.  And the central preoccupation of their narratives is to overcome the prosaic nature of their daily lives and especially their relationships and interactions with their family. The examination of the family unit, the working class, and the displaced subject are the three central themes of the heartland film genre.

Some of its motifs include angst, repression, and nihilism.  Indeed it is reasonable to claim that the heartland film is very much a genre that takes a dystopian approach to represent and reproduce everyday life in Singapore.

Dystopia is defined by the Oxford dictionary as an imaginary place or state in which everything is extremely bad or unpleasant. This condition of imagined unpleasantness lies at the center of the cinematic approach in treating character, story, and stylistics in the heartland film.

Indeed, Singapore Cinema takes a very bleak and nihilistic view of the dystopian city-state of Singapore.