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, 92 min.
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
Shape of the Moon is the second film in a trilogy that follows three generations of the Sjamsuddin family living in Jakarta, Indonesia. Once again, director Leonard Retel Helmrich trains his camera on Rumidjah, her sons Bachti & Dwi and her young granddaughter Tari. In the first film, the family is shown navigating life in a country entrenched in poverty and on the cusp of major political change. Here, Helmrich picks up a couple of years later as the country tenuously responds to the effects of a newly formed democracy and seemingly instant globalization.
An early frame asserting that Indonesia is “…the largest Muslim community on the globe” shifts focus from politics to faith. Scenes among the family unfold a building tension between Rumidja’s Christian faith and Bachti’s growing interest in Islam. Rumidja is intent on raising Tari in the Christian faith and implements little observances to support this (the scene with Rumidja getting Tari to hang up a holograph of Jesus and Mary cleverly portrays this stake-hold). This conflict mirrors well the broader religious tensions existing beyond their home. Rapid social, political and economic changes in Jakarta have lead to a rise in fundamentalism within the Muslim community. This does not sit well with Rumidja. So, when Bachti offers to take care of Tari so Rumidja may return to her native village, she assents.
Incorporating the same cinéma vérité style and unwavering attention to every detail, Helmrich’s camera continues to craft a rich and layered visual narrative. Lengthy shots following bugs, lizards and cats cleverly mirror emerging sociopolitical and socioeconomic strata. In juxtaposing the urban and rural; cramped dark interiors and rich, colorful exteriors, Helmrich also draws attention to the strain between the old and the new. This becomes even more pronounced as Rumidja returns to her village Kalimiru. In a heartbreaking scene, Tari becomes inconsolable when she realizes she will not be allowed to stay with her grandmother in the village. Rumidja stoically tells Tari that the village offers no future for her and that the city offers no future for herself; so they must part. Later, Rumidja struggles to reclaim her footing in a village that has become modernized with much of the farming having been replaced by machines. Rumidja seems to take hope in the notion that her granddaughter is fairing better in the city.
- Grand Jury Prize, Sundance
- Grand Jury Award, Full Frame Festival
- Joris Ivens Award, IDFA