When did you know that your film POSITION AMONG THE STARS would become a documentary?
Leonard Retel Helmrich: From the very first moment we started we were thinking of making a documentary in Indonesia. You can only do that by filming the reality as it is.
How detailed was the script before shooting?
We didn't have any script before shooting. POSITION AMONG THE STARS is an observational documentary and the story line of observational documentaries are mostly made in the editing. The only thing we had was a clear vision of what we wanted to explore. We focused on the three aspects that created the change in Indonesia that was changing from a dictatorial regime to a democracy and the new area of globalization. These three aspects were "politics", "religion" and "economy". When I was with the family I waited for moments in human interaction where at least one of those three aspects would occur. Only then I would start filming. I stayed every day with the family for 14 months to be able to get all these moments that eventually made the story. After spotting the 300 hours of footage my producer/co-writer and I wrote the script according to the scenes we got, and then my editor tried to fit it all together. Also during the editing we had to readjust the storyline often so the story would film the footage instead of the other way around.
In recent years the borders between documentary and fiction have blurred. Where do you see yourself in this development?
The editing and the way the story is told looks like in fiction. But the only scenes in my films that where prepared were the symbolic scenes like the dew drop in where you see the world reflected and the reflection of a farmer who is spraying DDT expressing the world being poisoned. Or the scene with the little boy who was running down the allies, expressing the narrow and dense neighbourhood from where the younger generation of Indonesians want to escape. But all the scenes with people's interaction are purely shot by intuition.
I'm a purist in the sense that for me the difference between documentary and fiction is that in documentary the interaction between people in the film is real and in fiction the interaction is not real but re-enacted. Therefore my film is a documentary because all the interaction scenes are real, shot purely by not following a script but just following my intuition using small cameras and a special film method based on the film theory called "Single Shot Cinema" that enables me to move the camera around quickly, flexible but also steady in order to shoot the scene in a single shot compared to many different camera angles and camera movements like in a fiction film. Because the film language in fiction films is more evolved than the film language that is mostly used in documentaries.
I hope that many more documentary filmmakers become aware of the fact that we are more free nowadays in the way we shoot our footage. Then the cinematography of documentaries will become more expressive so finally the documentary can compete with fiction.
POSITION AMONG THE STARS
POSITION AMONG THE STARS