Position Among the Stars

Leonard Retel Helmrich, The Netherlands, 2010, color, HDcam, 109'

The concluding part of Leonard Retel Helmrich's trilogy on Indonesia, which follows the Christian-Islamic Sjamsuddin family. Here, as in part one The Eye of the Day (2002) and part two Shape of the Moon (2004), Helmrich uses the single shot cinema technique he developed, whose characteristic style – with long, uninterrupted shots devoid of interviews or commentary – is closely related to cinema verité and direct cinema. The camera's broad, intuitive movements are distinctive for these films: it is a fly in the air rather than a fly on the wall, roving among the various family members, including resolute grandmother Rumidjah, her son Bakti and her granddaughter Tari. No one seems in the least disturbed by the filmmakers - not even the rats and cockroaches. The occasionally funny and moving everyday ups and downs of the Sjamsuddin family serve as an indirect channel for a portrait of modern Indonesia, with all its contrasts between urban and rural, wealth and poverty, and religion and globalization. In this country where religious leaders preach the adoption of Islamic law, Rumidjah and Bakti hope that Tari will be the first in the family to go to college, while Tari herself displays all the familiar characteristics of a rebellious teenager: her primary interests are shopping and boys.

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