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DDocumentary Feature Competition

Position Among the Stars

Position Among the Stars

Original Title: Stand ven de Sterren
Director: Leonard Retel Helmrich
Netherlands | Indonesian
2010 | 111min. | Colour
Subtitles: Arabic and English
Format: HDCAM
15+
Position Among the Stars is an intimate and beautifully crafted portrait of an extended family living together in a slum in Jakarta. Dutch director Leonard Retel Helmrich spent 12 years filming the lives and times of the Sjamsuddin family, framing them against the backdrop of social upheaval in Indonesia, to create an award-winning documentary saga. Position is the final film in a trilogy that includes The Eye of the Day and Shape of the Moon, but this fascinating work also stands alone.

Helmrich finds plenty of natural drama and comedy in the material. Episodes like the installation of a gas stove contain loving detail rarely seen in coverage of the developing-world poor. Significantly, the family is made up of both Muslims and Christians. Even in cramped quarters they respect each other’s faith but, like many families, they have wrenching arguments about money and their uncertain prospects. The question of whether teenager Tari will attend university becomes central as a world of malls, smartphones and boys beckons. The Sjamsuddins embody 21st-century paradoxes – they teeter on the poverty line, even as they hide their video games from welfare authorities. When grandmother Rumidjah leaves the turmoil of the city for her ancestral village, the impact of politics and encroaching development becomes even more apparent.

Helmrich’s unorthodox style blends vérité and whimsical formalism. Candid long takes of family interaction are cut with striking visual interludes, building a loose but insistent narrative. Well before its poetic conclusion, Position Among the Stars manifests a universal scope: It’s a document of our world in transition.

–Jim Poe

Director,  Leonard Retel Helmrich

Director,  Leonard Retel Helmrich

Leonard Retel Helmrich was born in the Netherlands and studied at the Netherlands Film and Television Academy. Since his debut with The Phoenix Mystery (1990), he has established a directorial style known as single-shot cinema, in which entire scenes are recorded in one take with fluid camera movement. His film Shape of the Moon (2005), the second in a documentary trilogy on contemporary Indonesia, won the inaugural World Documentary Award at Sundance. He currently teaches film and media at NYU Abu Dhabi. His other films include The Eye of the Day (2001) and The Burning Season (2008).

Cast and Crew

Director
Leonard Retel Helmrich
Cast
Rumidjah, Bakti, Tari, Sri, Dwi, Tumisah
Production Company
Scarabeefilms
Music
Danang Faturahman, Fahmi Al Attas
Producer
Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmrich
Executive Producer
Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmrich
Screenwriter
Leonard Retel Helmrich, Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmrich
Editor
Jasper Naaijkens
Cinematographer
Leonard Retel Helmrich
Sound
Ranko Paukovic
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