Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
Produced by Leonard Retel Helmrich
Directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich
DVD, color, 294 min. 3 DVDs
Sr. High - General Adult
Area Studies, Asian Studies, Family, Globalization, Global Studies, Muslim Studies, Political Science, Religious Studies
Reviewed by Winifred Fordham Metz, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Date Entered: 6/4/2012
Filmmaker Leonard Retel Helmrich spent more than a dozen years following three generations of the Sjamsuddin family in Jakarta, Indonesia. Helmrich’s careful and ever vigilant lens reflects not only the Sjamsuddin’s family dynamics but also the much larger story of a country and culture experiencing exponential change.
We are first introduced to Rumidjah and her sons Bachti and Dwi in The Eye of the Day. Through them, Helmrich captures a pivotal political crossroads – the end of a 32-year reign of President Suharto. The film follows the family for several years (from 1998-2001) through to the election that seats Abdurrahman Wahid. Along the way, Helmrich also chronicles the growing enmity between two primary religious groups (Christianity and Muslim) and the country’s shifting politics (keenly portrayed through Bakti’s creative use of a stock of political billboards to build his newest pigeon coop).
The next film, Shape of the Moon picks up in a country tenuously responding to the effects of a newly formed democracy and seemingly instant globalization, with a rise in Islamic fundamentalist rule. Rumidjah cannot resign herself to these changes and seeks asylum in her native village, Kalimiru. Intent on providing her granddaughter Tari with an education, Rumidjah looks to Bachti to care of Tari in the city.
The final film in the trilogy, Position Among the Stars brings Rumidjah back to the city, to help tend to her granddaughter Tari. The city has changed exponentially in the five or so years that Rumidjah has been away. Tari has grown into a teenager and embraced most of the trappings of globalization; cell phone, hanging out at the mall with her girlfriends, insisting on taxis and eschewing any vestiges of her grandmother’s culture (the scene where she refused to ride to her graduation in a horse-drawn carriage is at once heartbreaking and amusing).
At the heart of this cinéma vérité styled trilogy, Helmrich has crafted a cinematographic journey capturing the struggles of everyday life in Indonesia as seen through the eyes of the Sjamsuddin family.
- Grand Jury Awards at IDFA, Zagrebdox, Sarasota, Alba and Durban Film Festivals