Catalogues All | Human Interest | Society POSITION AMONG THE STARS

Category All , Human Interest , Society
Year: 2010
Country: Netherlands
Running Time: 58' | 109'
Production: Scarabee Films
Director: Leonard Retel Helmrich
Official Website:

For 12 years, filmmaker Leonard Retel Helmrich followed an Indonesian family from the slums of Jakarta. This resulted in the trilogy “Stand van de zon”, “Stand van de maan” and “Stand van de sterren” (“Eye of the Day”, “Shape of the Moon” “Position Among the Stars”). Just like in the previous two parts, which received many international prizes, in the third part “Position Among the Stars” the maker shows us the underlying patterns of life in Indonesia. He presents both literally and metaphorically with his revolutionary camera work. The Indonesian Sjamsuddin family is, in a way, a microcosm in which you can recognise the most important issues of life in Indonesia: corruption, conflict between religions, gambling addiction, the generation gap and the growing difference between poor and rich.

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country and has the largest Muslim population. Grandmother Rumidjah, a confessed Christian, has left the bustle of Jakarta to live with her friend Tumisa in the countryside. Her son Bakti, who has converted to Islam, takes care of her grandchild Tari. Bringing up his Tari is hard for him, so Bakti brings his mother back to town.

However, Tari grows up in a time when young people have become much more open and she does not hide her opinions. This behaviour regularly brings her into conflict with the older generations. The problems faced by the Qatari family make the old woman decide to stay in town until Tari has finished her secondary school and can study at university. The whole family regards the bright Tari as their only opportunity of improving their own status and ever being able to escape the slums of Jakarta. Bakti’s job as district chief doesn’t earn him much money. As a result he trains fighting fish to gamble with them the side.

While the whole family does everything they can to collect enough money to pay the college fees for Tari’s study, Tari prefers to spend her time and money with her girlfriends in Jakarta’s nightlife. Her friends from secondary school also bring her into contact with the nouveau riche of Indonesia, which is miles away from her life in the slums. Will Rumidjah managed to allow her granddaughter to study in this economic crisis?

More about Director

Leonard Retel Helmrich

Leonard Retel Helmrich was born in 1959. He finished the Netherlands Film Academy in 1986 as a fiction director of the short fiction film called De Drenkeling (The Drowning Man). He made his debut with the feature film The Phoenix Mystery in 1990. His documentary Moving Objects (1991) has won several prizes at International film festivals.

These last years, Leonard Retel Helmrich gave workshops to lecture his single-shot cinema theory all over the world, on several Art Academies like Kansas or Jakarta. Next to attending workshops as a tutor he has shot several short documentaries before, during and after Suharto stepped down as a president. With his feature documentary De stand van de zon (The eye of the day), he instantly became famous in the documentary film world and won many international awards. His following feature documentary Shape of the Moon was selected at many important festivals - a.o. Joris Ivens competition IDFA 2004 and Sundance 2005.

Position Among the Stars - Script/Director/Camera

Muslim Indonesia Film - Script/Director/Camera

Shape of the Moon - Script/Director/Camera

Flight From Heaven - Director/Camera

De stand van de zon (The Eye of the Day) - Script/Director/Camera

The Body of Indonesias Conscience - Script/Director/Editor

Als een vloedlijn - Script/Director 

Art Non-Blok - Director/Camera/Editor 

Jemand auf der Treppe - Screenplay/Director

Moving Objects - Director/Camera

Het Phoenix Mysterie - Screenplay/Director

Festivals & Awards

2010 International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, Netherlands
Won Best Feature-Length Documentary Award
Won Best Dutch Documentary Award

2011 Sundance Film Festival, USA
Won World Cinema Special Jury Award

2011 Visions du Réel International Film Festival, France

2011 Zagreb Dox, Croatia
Won Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary

2011 European Film Awards
Nominated for European Film Academy Documentary 2011 - Prix Arte

2011 IDA Documentary Awards
Won Humanitas Documentary Award

Press & Reviews

"...their everyday lives are impressively recorded and recounted as he utilises cinema verite moments to bring moments charm and compassion into their family tale."
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