Position Among the Stars (2010) MIFF Film Review


This is the final documentary in a trilogy and I have not seen the others. It is definitely stand alone, although I am now very keen on seeing the other two. Dutch filmmaker Leonard Retel Helmrich has documented the lives of the Sjamsuddin family who live in Jakarta. They are a very poor family who live in the slums and struggle to make ends meet day-to-day.

Sometimes, you did feel sorry for them, having to scrounge to find a way to pay for the granddaughter, Turi, to go to university. What I found more often than not was that I was getting annoyed with them for their silly decisions, or bad choices. Turi acts like a spoilt brat, and I just wanted to whack her over the head and say ‘Your grandmother is working so hard, stop complaining!’ but really she is just your normal, somewhat annoying teenager. Bakti, the father and his wife are affectionate and yet fight bitterly.

The hero of the story is definitely the grandmother Rumidjah She is the matriarch that you know usually finds a way to succeed, and her manipulation is often very subtle.

In some ways, this felt like a soap opera, but it was a fabulous look into life in the slums of Jakarta and the lives of a very normal family.

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