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April 26 - 27

Sun & Moon in Indonesia:
The Single-Shot Cinema of Leonard Retel Helmrich

Indonesia is one of the most populous nations on earth, and that population is among the most diverse anywhere. In order to depict and explore that diversity and its complexities, Leonard Retel Helmrich (b. 1959) aims not for a vast overview but rather focuses on the daily, the specific and the intimate. He has spent several years documenting the fortunes of one working-class family in Jakarta, headed by the matriarch Rumidjah. The two films that he made with that family, The Eye of the Day and Shape of the Moon, have won prizes at festivals from Amsterdam to Sundance.

Born in the Netherlands to a Dutch father and a Javanese mother, Helmrich graduated from the Netherlands Film and Television Academy in 1986 and made his feature debut with the fiction film The Phoenix Mystery (1990). He began traveling to Indonesia shortly after the death of his mother in 1990 and now splits his time between Jakarta and Amsterdam. In documenting the lives of Rumidjah and her family, Helmrich shoots simply, his camera an extension of his hand. At the same time, his camera work displays incredible virtuosity and ingenuity. Both The Eye of the Day and Shape of the Moon are built out of long takes, with Helmrich improvising apparatus that enable his camera to move smoothly, seeming to float. Helmrich dubs this method "single-shot cinema."

This program is presented in collaboration with the Balagan Experimental Film and Video Series and Harvard's Film Study Center. Special thanks to Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Jeff Silva.

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Special Event Tickets $10
Saturday April 26 at 7pm

The Eye of the Day (De stand van de zon)

Directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich, Appearing in Person
Indonesia/Netherlands 2001, 35mm, color, 94 min.
Indonesian and Javanese with English subtitles

Against the backdrop of growing protests in opposition to party of Indonesian dictator Suharto and the elections that will bring Megawati to power, The Eye of the Day follows the daily lives of Rumidjah, her family and their friends. Rumidjah, a sixty-two year-old widow, lives with her children and grandchildren in a working-class section of Jakarta. The Eye of the Day encompasses the life in Rumidjah's living room as well as the political confrontations in the streets of Jakarta and the nighttime labor of scavengers at a massive garbage dump. Helmrich's patient camera reveals the drama, and striking images, in each of these locations.

 Listen to this evening's introduction, discussion and Q&A.

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Special Event Tickets $10
Sunday April 27 at 3pm

Shape of the Moon (Stand van de maan)

Directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich, Appearing in Person
Indonesia/Netherlands 2004, 35mm, color, 92 min.
Indonesian with English subtitles

The end of the Suharto regime ushered in an era of rapid sociopolitical change in Indonesia. Shape of the Moon registers those changes on aging matriarch Rumidjah and her family. Rumidjah is a Christian, but her son Bakti converts to Islam to marry a Muslim woman. Shape of the Moon juxtaposes this family drama against the rise of fundamentalist Islam in Indonesia, itself a response to the country's uncertain future. Meanwhile, Rumidjah tires of the chaos of Jakarta and longs to return to her home village. However, she remains devoted to her eleven year-old granddaughter and knows that the countryside holds little promise for younger generations.

 Listen to this evening's introductions, discussion and Q&A.

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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700