Good news for the documentary interested audience in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Monthly Documentary in May at the Film House is Leonard Retel Helmrich’ masterpiece “Position Among the Stars” that runs every day from Thursday May 5 till Wednesday May 11. First a clip from the intro of the Film House, in Danish, and then quotes from what we wrote after the film won the first prize at idfa 2010. Go and watch the film:
“Leonard Retel Helmichs hjertevarme og sorthumoristiske portræt af en indonesisk familie i et slumkvarter i Jakarta vandt hovedprisen på verdens største dokumentarfilmfestival (IDFA) og på Sundance-festivalen. Via portrættet af Shamsuddin-familien demonstrerer Retel Helmrich, hvordan globaliseringsbølgens krusninger brydes med lokale sociale omvæltninger i det moderne Indonesien, herunder begyndende demokrati, generationskonflikter, voksende indkomstforskelle og opblomstringen af militant islamisme.”
”Position among the Stars” is third part of a trilogy about a family in Indonesia. 6 years after his second film about the family Sjamsuddin, three generations, the director Helmrich presents one more big humanistic epic that can be compared to Satayit Ray’s Apu-trilogy. Helmrich goes or rather flies from situation to situation, his camera is constant moving, there is an outstanding flow in the narrative, and he is met with open arms and minds by his characters. You sense that they like him, like he likes them, but empathy is of course not enough to make an exceptional film like this – the director knows his stoytelling dramaturgy, he knows to play with contrasts: countryside/big city, young/old, old world/modern life, and he does it through scenes with the warm and loving grandmother, her sometimes desperate son, who is a representative for the local community, split as he is between his mother’s generation and his niece, the teenage girl, the hope of the family, who is the one who must have an education, the first one in the family. There is a development of the characters in the film. There is laughter and tears.
Hemrich is using the Single Shot Cinema technique, a style he developed and perfected himself. He chooses to actively engage with his subject rather than remaining a neutral outsider – a position that typifies Direct Cinema. He aims to record events from the inside, not observe from a distance. To achieve this, he created the Steadywing, a construction that allows the filmmaker to move the camera continually in an exceptionally fluid and intuitive way – as he did among the family members featured in his trilogy. Helmrich’s invention has proved to be an inspiration for an entire generation of young filmmakers.