Helmrich: Position Among The Stars

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.



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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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