Position among the StarsStand van de Sterren
THE NETHERLANDS / 2010 / Indonesian / Color / Blu-ray (HD) / 111 min
Director: Leonard Retel Helmrich
Photography: Ismail Fahmi Lubish, Leonard Retel Helmrich
Editing: Jasper Naaijkens
Sound: Ranko Paukovic
Music: Danang Faturahman, Fahmy Al-Attas
Producer: Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmrich
Production Company: Scarabee Films
World Sales: Films Transit www.filmstransit.com
This film is the conclusion to a trilogy, filmed over 12 years, that follows an Indonesian family and centers on a grandmother who has come from the countryside to visit her granddaughter, who has lived with her uncle’s family since the death of her parents. The film briskly captures arguments between the uncle, who lacks a steady job but devotes himself to his fighting fish, and his disapproving wife, and the problem of whether the rebellious granddaughter will go to university. While skillfully touching upon religious conflict, the gap between rich and poor, and attitudinal differences between generations, the deft camerawork dramatically and humorously depicts the everyday lives of ordinary people with strong familial bonds.
[Director’s Statement] Position among the Stars is an observational documentary in the cinéma-vérité or the American Direct Cinema tradition. My deep familiarity with the people at the center of the trilogy of which this film is a part ensures that I can anticipate the potential outcome of any dramatic moment. While shooting—and while observing the family from the inside—I am focused on elements that are linked to one or more of the main themes. As with all the films in the trilogy, the narrative was created in the editing room out of more than 300 hours of footage.
Eventually we selected the best scenes from those shot that deal with the main theme of the rapidly changing Indonesian society. We edited them in a sequence that seemed both logical and poetic, since poetry is layered, just like reality. That doesn’t mean the film lends itself to one interpretation only. Events in real life are often much longer than depicted in the film, having been pared down to their essence according to the personal vision of the filmmaker.
I shot Position among the Stars with the same method as the previous two documentaries: “Single Shot Cinema,” which I developed myself. In practice that means that I film the events with one single shot, with one dynamically moving camera. I direct the camera toward positions that best express the drama in the ongoing situation. Since I follow my main characters very closely, I’m center-stage at every event, so I can shoot the situation from inside out. I have opted for this method because I realize that as an observer, I am part of the event that I am observing.
Position among the Stars is edited using scenes from the life of a family while the drama of reality unfolds in front of the camera—narrated by the cinematography, which is constantly searching and discovering.
Leonard Retel Helmrich
Leonard Retel Helmrich was born in Tilburg, the Netherlands, in 1959, after his family had moved from Bandung, Indonesia, to the Netherlands. He graduated from the Dutch Film and Television Academy in 1986 in feature-film directing, screenwriting, and editing. His debut feature was The Phoenix Mystery (1990). His first documentary, Moving Objects (1991), won several awards at international festivals. His Indonesian trilogy has become his tour de force, including the feature-length documentaries The Eye of the Day (2001), Shape of the Moon (2004), and Position among the Stars, in which he follows the Shamsuddin family, who try to survive as their country faces nascent democracy, widening income and generation gaps, and the increasing power of Islam over everyday life. Promised Paradise (2006) screened at YIDFF 2009. Position among the Stars has already won several awards, including awards for Best Feature-Length Documentary and Best Dutch Documentary at IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) 2010. In September 2011, he will start as full professor of film at the New York University of Abu Dhabi.