14 March 2018


FILM: One At A Time

DIRECTOR: Daniel Yam

SYNOPSIS: After being asked to retire at 86, Teresa Hsu continued her charity work, and founded Heart to Heart Service. This film brings to life one of Singapore’s most iconic givers and charts the turning points that shaped her relentless spirit of giving.

This film is part of the 15 Shorts project and can be watched online through their website or Facebook page.

Review by Hubert Lawrence Yeo

When you come face to face with desolation, hunger and poverty, what do you do? Teresa Hsu and her mother did what most people would have found immensely difficult: they shared what they had, forgoing all they had to eat for a day so that another family would not go hungry. Directed by Daniel Yam, One At A Time is a heartfelt and sincere portrayal of Teresa Hsu’s (See Geok Ping) life of service, of giving herself to those in society who require help ““ a life which was also simple and unassuming.

Throughout the film, we observe glimpses of Teresa’s time at the Society for the Aged Sick and her benevolent disposition towards the residents who live in the home. What is remarkable about Yam’s artistic direction is his visual use of gentle, glowing streaks of light to mirror the elderly matron’s warm, tender and loving presence. Flashbacks to events in the past continually remind us of how this kindly temperament has been consistent throughout her life, and she wills it to remain so even if others insist that she retire to rest.

As a result, despite being asked to leave the Society for the Aged Sick due to her old age, Teresa Hsu gave more of herself to the underprivileged of society. We see her establishing Heart to Heart Service and taking part in regular food distribution programmes, helping the poor and needy sustain themselves. Within this film, the locations where she is most seen are often ordinary and pedestrian ““ corridors, stairwells and sparse rooms, emphasising her oneness with the realism of everyday life. Yet, her zest for reaching out to the last, lost and least makes her distinctive. She illuminates the darkest of days; a vivid, pure white.

“All my life, I think of people who have less than me. That has been my guiding light” ““ the story of Teresa Hsu, who passed away peacefully at the age of 113 in 2011, is a radiant reminder for us to keep in mind the poor and needy of society who are so often forgotten and ignored; that every individual can engender a touching difference in another life. It is not about grand gestures, but rather doing small things with great love.

About 15 Shorts

15 Shorts is a collaboration between the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) and Blue3Asia. Fifteen film directors provide an alternative perspective to the nation-building narratives of the era; their films tell true stories of Singaporeans who performed powerful acts of selflessness between the 1970s and 1990s. These are slice-of-life stories that reveal how this human, giving side has always been a part of us.

In the spirit of giving, each director will dedicate his or her film to a charity in Singapore. Working with NVPC, the directors have curated a list of charities that cover a spectrum of needs, including support for the elderly, people with autism, and migrant workers.

About The Director’s Chosen Organisation

Heart to Heart Service is a non-profit, non-government aided welfare group initiated by prominent social worker Teresa Hsu, with a strong commitment to helping the poor, needy, sick and aged. The Service reaches out to the poor and needy by providing them with food and monetary assistance every month. Heart to Heart Service is guided by its late founder Teresa Hsu’s simple philosophy and mission of reaching out to anyone in need, regardless of their race or religion. If you wish to volunteer or give any aid, you may visit this page.

If you know of any individual who is in need of dire assistance and would like to refer them to Heart to Heart Service, click here.

If you wish to find out more about Sister Teresa’s life and work, her memoirs have been published and is available for purchase ““ Love and Share: Memoirs of a Centenarian. All proceeds from the sale of her memoirs go to funding Heart to Heart’s assistance programme in Singapore and overseas. If you wish to purchase the book, please indicate your interest to Sharana Rao. The memoir is also available for viewing at the National Library.

Miranda loves film, hates beansprouts, and is still trying to figure out how to do bubblegum bubbles.