YIDFF 2017 Encore Screenings Part 7
Screenings at the Yamagata Documentary Film Library present documentaries and movies rarely shown on television or in theaters, including works from the Film Library vaults.
14:00- 19:00-（Screens twice）
YIDFF 2017 New Asian Currents
Director: Manuel Alberto Maia / INDONESIA / 2016 / 76 min
Kupang, West Timor. Nokas, a young man who works in the fields, is set to marry Ci, who raises chickens. But things do not go so easily, as unsaid rules of marriage between two families stand in the way of the couple’s happiness. As the patriarchs of both families reach agreements about the dowry and details of the ceremony, Nokas‘ resolve is strengthened, regardless of the financial cost. He turns to his sister—a powerful single mother—and to his mother and her husband who live on Semau Island across the strait, for the necessary funds.
I first met Nokas in April 2013, when I was working on an assignment documenting the struggle of Kolhua farmers in jeopardy of losing their land. He was resting on his farm, and in the midst of the smoke from his cigarettes, we spoke about our motherland and our birthright to live on our own land. Nokas is one of thousands of Kolhuas who continue to struggle against the local government’s mega-dam construction plan—reportedly worth over 46 million dollars.
Nokas won my heart when I learned that he was still single. A single young man in Kupang who prefers to work his land is uncommon. Most would rather hang out at the local billiard bars or work in other big cities. The challenges they face because of the government’s project are also very discouraging. Nokas’ life choices became my main drive.
My interest in this hardworking young man and his difficult circumstances led me to a profound understanding of the complexity of his family life. Out of narratives on marriage, family, and culture in Timor, I focused the film on Nokas’ efforts to fulfill his requested dowry and finally marry his true love. Therefore, I dare to say that Nokas represents contemporary Timorese life.
In the three years I worked on this film, I learned so much; not only from my characters and their culture, but also about how film has become an important and powerful medium in fighting against the structural poverty endured by many groups in society. Nokas and his family gained the same awareness, which led them to open up to being filmed and partaking in the long process of filmmaking. The whole production experience, from pre-production to post—and even through the ongoing distribution process of the film—has been a very fruitful and rewarding learning process not only for me, but also for the friends who joined me on this journey.
Manuel Alberto Maia
YIDFF 2011 International competition
Director: Leonard Retel Helmrich / THE NETHERLANDS / 2010 / 111 min
This film is the conclusion to a trilogy, filmed over 12 years, that follows an Indonesian family and centers on a grandmother who has come from the countryside to visit her granddaughter, who has lived with her uncle’s family since the death of her parents. The film briskly captures arguments between the uncle, who lacks a steady job but devotes himself to his fighting fish, and his disapproving wife, and the problem of whether the rebellious granddaughter will go to university. While skillfully touching upon religious conflict, the gap between rich and poor, and attitudinal differences between generations, the deft camerawork dramatically and humorously depicts the everyday lives of ordinary people with strong familial bonds.
Position among the Stars is an observational documentary in the cinéma-vérité or the American Direct Cinema tradition. My deep familiarity with the people at the center of the trilogy of which this film is a part ensures that I can anticipate the potential outcome of any dramatic moment. While shooting—and while observing the family from the inside—I am focused on elements that are linked to one or more of the main themes. As with all the films in the trilogy, the narrative was created in the editing room out of more than 300 hours of footage.
Eventually we selected the best scenes from those shot that deal with the main theme of the rapidly changing Indonesian society. We edited them in a sequence that seemed both logical and poetic, since poetry is layered, just like reality. That doesn’t mean the film lends itself to one interpretation only. Events in real life are often much longer than depicted in the film, having been pared down to their essence according to the personal vision of the filmmaker.
I shot Position among the Stars with the same method as the previous two documentaries: “Single Shot Cinema,” which I developed myself. In practice that means that I film the events with one single shot, with one dynamically moving camera. I direct the camera toward positions that best express the drama in the ongoing situation. Since I follow my main characters very closely, I’m center-stage at every event, so I can shoot the situation from inside out. I have opted for this method because I realize that as an observer, I am part of the event that I am observing.
Position among the Stars is edited using scenes from the life of a family while the drama of reality unfolds in front of the camera—narrated by the cinematography, which is constantly searching and discovering.
Leonard Retel Helmrich
[Venue]The YAMAGATA Documentary Film Library (Yamagata Big Wing 3F)
[Admission]Free admission for members (Member’s fee: free)
[Presented by]YIDFF (NPO)
[Contact]e-mail：firstname.lastname@example.org (YIDFF Yamagata office)