FEATURE EVENT | Jan 20 • 7pm
“a breath-taking single shot cinema technique”
♦ Q & A with filmmaker Leonard Retel Helmrich after the movie from Jakarta Indonesia via Skype ♦
Synopis and Reviews
VIFF Vancity Theatre : “Whatever you think you understand by the word “documentary”, throw that out the window now. This is an exhilarating cinematic ride, a funny, pungent, piercing slice of neo-realist poetry that feels closer to Slumdog Millionaire than the Knowledge Network.
Leonard Retel Helmrich is a unique creative force, a virtuoso with a movie camera who would surely be as well known as Errol Morris and Werner Herzog, except that for the past 12 years he has devoted his filmmaking efforts to telling the story of one impoverished Indonesian family, the Shamshuddins. Not that Bakti and co will seem remote to anyone who has a teenage daughter more interested in hanging out at the mall than going on to college, or any housewife juggling domestic duties with a heavy workload – while her husband pins his hopes on gambling. In our globalized world the generational struggle to make ends meet, to reconcile tradition, spiritual values and social aspiration, plays out in ways that may seem both strange and oddly familiar.
Clearly made collaboratively with the subjects (whose lives Helmrich previously chronicled in the award-winning The Eye of the Day and Shape of the Moon – both screening at the Vancity Theatre this week), and refining the vertiginous single-take aesthetic that Helmrich has made his own, Position Among the Stars is a rule-breaker, a vibrant, iconoclastic response to the massive social and economic contradictions presented by life in the 21st Century.”
VILLAGE VOICE : “A dazzler.”
SIMON FOSTER : “One of the great talents in the world of factual filmmaking.”
LA WEEKLY Aaron Hills : “You don’t need to have seen 2001’s The Eye of the Day or 2005’s Shape of the Moon to be moved and awed by the final leg in Dutch filmmaker Leonard Retel Helmrich’s warmhearted doc trilogy involving the Sjamsuddin family from the chaotic slums of Jakarta. Rather than another weepy lament over the anesthetizing effects of Third World poverty, this patient but wildly expressionistic mosaic uses a canvas so vast that not just the subjects but fighting fish, cockroaches and the mangiest rat yet committed to cinema complete a bizarre ecosystem of co-dependence. There are no talking heads or voice-over, just acrobatic vérité camera work, allowing the rapidly changing details of this post-globalized society to be mirrored in the day-in-the-life toils of middle-aged slacker Bakti, his ball-busting Christian mother, Rumidjah, and his mildly Westernized young niece, Tari.”
NEW YORK TIMES Jeannette Catsoulis :“Engrossing, poetic and often very funny, “Position,” like its predecessors, uses the lens of a single family to view the tumult of an entire country. Values clash and negotiate — Christian and Muslim, urban and rural, tradition and modernity — and corruption and religious extremism are constant reminders of political instability. Capturing this, Mr. Helmrich’s camera soars and plummets, ascending the rickety frame of a new construction project and crouching beside a kitten as it toys with a rat’s twitching tail. A fat cockroach paddles across Sri’s countertop and into her stew; no one notices.”
Leonard Retel Helmrich is a Dutch filmmaker who worked as a drama director and cameraman in the Netherlands before going to Indonesia – the birthplace of his Dutch father and Indonesian mother. While filming a demonstration in 1995, Helmrich was arrested and jailed as a suspected spy, then declared persona non grata. He was not able to return to Indonesia until 1997 – that same year he began following Rumijah and her family with his camera. For the past 12 years he has devoted his filmmaking efforts to telling the story of one impoverished Indonesian family, the Shamshuddins. The three documentaries that followed have been acclaimed everywhere they have shown. Helmrich developed a theoretical perspective for his work as well as a practical technique for an approach that he calls ‘single shot cinema’, involving long takes with a constantly moving camera. He has also designed a special camera mount that allows extraordinary stability and maneuverability in shooting. (VIFF Vancity Theatre)
Awards and Distinctions
• Nominee Writers Guild of America Best Documentary 2012
• Nominee European Film Awards Best Documentary 2011
• Winner International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam
Best Feature Length Documentary 2010
Best Dutch Documentary2010
• Winner Grand Jury Prize Sundance Film Festival 2010
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