Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
Produced by Hetty Naaykens-Retel Helmrich
Directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich
DVD, color, 91 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
The first in a trilogy of films following the Sjamsuddin family, The Eye of the Day introduces us to Rumijah and her sons Bakti and Dwi as they work to survive the slums of Jakarta. Years of political chaos and an extremely depressed economy have taken their toll. Director Helmrich joins the family in 1998, at a turbulent time in Indonesia, on the cusp of a political intersection eventually leading to the resignation of the then 32-year leader, Suharto. Helmrich’s camera follows Rumijah, fighting for a spot in a rations line, to no avail. Footage of the rise of the student protests leads into a series of earnest family discussions. Dwi tries to counsel Bakti into finding employment instead of gambling in the streets. Rumijah longs to return to rural life in central Java. Through these scenes and more, Helmrich constructs a larger narrative of a country at the crossroads of big change, grappling with growth and the effects of globalization. Helmrich’s cinematic eye and vigilant attention to detail combined with his aptitude for juxtaposing the urban and rural makes the story all the more compelling.
Helmrich continues following the family during the elections of 1999 that seated Abdurrahman Wahid, up through 2001. Along the way, he chronicles the growing enmity between primary religious groups (Christianity and Muslim) and shifting politics (keenly portrayed through Bakti’s creative use of a stock of political billboards to build his newest pigeon coop).
At the heart of this cinéma vérité styled documentary, Helmrich has crafted a cinematographic journey capturing the struggles of everyday life in Indonesia as seen through the eyes of the Sjamsuddin family.
- Audience Award, IDFA
- Audience Award, Visions du Reel