The Netherlands


Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country and has also the largest Muslim population. For 12 years, filmmaker Leonard Retel Helmrich has followed an Indonesian family from the slums of Jakarta. Just as in his previous two multiple award-winning documentaries THE EYE OF THE DAY and SHAPE OF THE MOON, in POSITION AMONG THE STARS, he continues to show us the underlying patterns of life in Indonesia. His intimate access to the Indonesian Sjamsuddin family provides viewers a microcosm depicting the most important issues of life in Indonesia today: corruption, conflict between religions, gambling addiction, the generation gap, and the growing difference between poor and rich. The grandmother Rumidjah, a confessed Christian, has left the bustle of Jakarta to live with her friend in the countryside. Her son Bakti, who has converted to Islam, is responsible for raising his juvenile niece Tari. Because he can’t handle Tari, Bakti got his mother back to Jakarta in order to teach her granddaughter about moral and social values. Tari grows up in a time of increasing openness. A time in which people are allowed, and even expected, to express their opinion about everything. Older people grew up in a repressive time they haven’t got used to democracy. The generation gap between young and old like in the Western countries has become a new phenomenon in Indonesia. One does not have to have seen Leonard Retel Helmrich's previous films to fully enjoy POSITION AMONG THE STARS.

Director's Statement

THE SINGLE-SHOT CINEMA To get this close to the skin of the people, all the scenes of my documentaries were filmed according to the principle of the “single-shot cinema”. This principle is based on film theories of the French film critic from 1950s André Bazin, who said that the essence of film lies in the movement of the camera. By using the camera movement as basic narrative, instead of framing or light, the film you make becomes cinematographic and dynamic. I have been developing this method of filming by carefully comparing film history with the history of other forms of art, like painting, sculpture, architecture, music and poetry. The essence of “Single Shot Cinema” in documentary is not making use of re-enactment but to catch the moments of real life while they are happening in just one single shot with a camera that is organically moving around. It allows you to put your personal view about the subject you are filming into the movement of the camera. I shoot with flexible but controlled long camera movements using my intuition to guide me pure observational and being physically part of the moment that I’m filming. In order to move from one camera angle to another without stopping filming, the camera movements need to have a dramatical purpose. The scenes will be edited without losing the rhythm of the moment. While editing I don’t cut from a fixed fame to a fixed frame but from camera movement to camera movement. This makes that the editing follows a natural flow.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Leonard Retel Helmrich

Written by: Hetty Naaijkens, Leonard Retel Helmrich

Produced by: Hetty Naaijkens

Cinematography: Leonard Retel Helmrich

Editing: Jasper Naaijkens

Original Score: Danang Faturahman, Fahmy Al-Attas

Nominations and Awards

  • European Documentary Award – Prix Arte 2011