Leonard Retel Helmrich
Leonard Retel Helmrich
West Hall Auditorium, RPI Campus
April 2, 2008 7:30 PM - 10:00 PM
Eye of the Day
Directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich, Appearing in Person
Indonesia/Netherlands 2001, 35mm, color, 94 min.
Indonesian and Javanese with English subtitles
A reception with Leonard Retel Helmrich will follow the event.
Against the backdrop of growing protests in opposition to the 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.
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."
He designed a special camera mount that allows extraordinary stability and maneuverability in shooting called "Steadywings". Having spent years designing this technique he now also runs workshops for broadcasters and with filmmakers to share his skills, most recently in Amsterdam, Belgium, Kansas City USA, South Africa, Germany, Indonesia and Sydney Australia.
Other films by Retel Helmrich
In October of 2002, Jakarta-based puppeteer and troubadour Agus Nur Amal found his life forever changed when a suicide bomber exploded himself in a Bali nightclub. A man who skillfully uses humor to confront serious emotional issues, Amal travels to Bali determined to hold accountable those who supported the reprehensible crime. While the children who attend his shows laugh heartily as Amal reenacts the attack on the World Trade Center in an enormous television set and a puppet of Osama Bin Laden sways his hips, the room goes silent as his shadow play shifts to focus on a pair of recent bombings in Indonesia. Later, filmmaker Leonard Retel Helmrich uses creative editing to portray an interview between Amal and the perpetrators of the bombing and Amal speaks with a paranormal advisor in hopes of learning the suicide bomber's ultimate fate.
Shape of the Moon" (2005, 92 minutes)
In this vivid follow up to The Eye of the Day (2001), director Leonard Retel Helmrich again visits Indonesia through three generations of the Sjamsuddin family. Rumidjah, a 62 year-old Catholic widow, lives in a working-class district of Jakarta, with her son Bakti, a new Muslim convert, and her granddaughter Tari. Since the fall of Suharto, she has witnessed the country pass through a period of socio-political chaos. Islam, Indonesia's largest religion, is trying to maintain order and discipline, while becoming increasingly fundamentalist in its tone. These changes and conflicts with her son make Rumidjah long for life in the simple country village of her birth. Mother and son's good-natured quarrels take place against the background of anti-US demonstrations and an Islamic neighborhood watch. In this way the film continually connects small issues with large ones. There are no interviews, no voice-over. Shape of the Moon offers the kind of cinema vérite where the camera moves intuitively along with the action.
Spring 08 iEAR Visiting Artists Residencies
Residencies will consist of a collaborative production with interdisciplinary electronic artists, faculty and students at the iEAR Studios. Special attention will be given to networking international artists with the local, and considering connections between local communities of Troy, NY and the local communities of the visiting artists from Iraq, Malaysia, Indonesia, and England. This series is supported in part by the New York State Council on the Arts
Future events in the series:
April 23 - Hasnul Saidon
iEAR Presents! is a series of public performances, exhibitions, screenings and lectures. Curated by artist faculty, iEAR Presents! seeks to bring artists into a creative dialogue regarding integrated electronic arts practice and theory with a participatory community of faculty and students from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and members of the general public.
Visit www.arts.rpi.edu for more information or call (518) 276-4829.
For disability services for West Hall events, including wheelchair access, please call (518) 276-2746.