Position Among the Stars

"Extraordinary"

Position Among the Stars Review


The third in director Helmrich's trilogy about the changes in Indonesian society, his parents' homeland, following The Eye of the Day (2001) and Shape of the Moon (2004), this documentary bristles with real life as it explores the pressures both within and upon the extended Sjamsudin family.

Bakti asks his 71-year-old mother Rumidjah to return from the countryside to Jakarta to look after his 17-year-old niece Tari, who's too modern-minded for him to take care of. Generation gaps seem to be widening, and they needs Tari to get into a good university to try and lift the whole family from its slum-dwelling life. But she's a modern teen, more interested in going out with her friends. Meanwhile, Bakti's wife Sri is getting fed up with his aimless approach to life.

Each of these generations has grown up in a very different Indonesian society, and the family is an odd mix of Muslim and Christian traditions. Bakti is only interested in breeding fighting fish, which he thinks will provide income through betting on battles ("I will fry your fish," says Sri, brandishing a spatula and not joking). And all Tari thinks about is getting a new mobile phone and going to the mall.

In other words, these complex people pretty much face the same issues as everyone on earth, with the added religious shifts taking place around them.

This gives the sumptuous, artful cinematography an intimate fly-on-the-wall tone, as we observe this lively family's earthy humour, gurgling conflicts and wrenching emotions. The film captures the warmth and everyday buzz of activity along with squalid conditions in which rats are as big as cats (cockroaches are the size of rats) and officials periodically spray the streets for Dengue fever.

Helmrich assembles this with strongly engaging narrative drive as the stakes get higher and higher. Along the way, he highlights huge issues in a matter-of-fact way that never preaches: Grandma might be cantankerous and pushy, but her experiences with both political and religious realities make her the only one whose feet seem to be on the ground. Which says rather a lot about us in the audience, actually.



Position Among the Stars

Facts and Figures

Run time: 115 mins

In Theaters: Friday 16th September 2011

Distributed by: Unknown

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 17

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Leonard Retel Helmrich

Producer: Hetty Naaijkens-Retel Helmrich

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