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Eye of the Day

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Indonesia, 1988. A deep political and economic crisis forces President Suharto to resign after thirty-two years in power. Thus begins the tumultuous era known as REFORMASI. Since then, Indonesians have seen ongoing political change, protests and poverty.
EYE OF THE DAY tells of a handful of them, including the sixty-year-old-woman Rumidjah, her sons Bakti and Dwi, and her friend Ibu Sum. The film depicts their world, from harvests in the countryside to mass protests in the cities, from mysterious natural forces of the volcanoes and mountains to religious seances and pilgrimages.


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Running Time: 92 min.
Subject(s): Asian Studies, Ecology, Environment, Education, Ethnography, Family, Poverty, Society
Language(s): Dutch, Indonesian
Subtitles: English
Director(s):
Producer(s): Hetty Naaykens-Retel Helmrich
Cinematographer: Leonard Retel Helmrich
Editor(s): Robert Broekhof, Denise see all »
Production Company: Scarabee Filmproducties Nederland

Festival & Awards

  • Visions du Réel Nyon - 2002
    Audience Award
  • Idée Suisse2003 - 2002
    Prix SRG SSR
  • Dutch Academy Award - 2003
    Golden Image (Gouden Beeld) Best Documentary

additional materials

  • Film Poster
  • Single Shot Cinema: a different approach to film language, by Leonard Retel Helmrich
  • "Indonesia in Motion: An Interview With Leonard Retel Helmrich, by Scott MacDonald"
  • Single-Shot Cinema and Ethnographic Sympathy in Contemporary Indonesia: A Review Essay on The Eye of the Day (2001), The Shape of the Moon (2004), and Position Among the Stars (2011) by Leonard Retel Helmrich, by James B. Hoesterey

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  • From the Eye of the Day to the Shape of the Moon

    In 1997 Retel Helmrich visited Indonesia as student protests erupted all of over the country. Eventually, Suharto was forced to step down a year later. Retel Helmrich started filming the daily life of the Sjamsuddin family against the backdrop of a country in turmoil. The Reformasi, a period of sociopolitical change in Indonesia, had just begun. Eye of the Day shows us how this change influences the lives of the three generations. The documentary was released in 2001 and gained considerable international attention.
    Only a few years later, in 2004, Shape of the Moon was released. In this documentary, Retel Helmrich shifts his focus to the rise of Islam in Indonesia. Change and tradition increasingly come into conflict: as a response to the country’s uncertain future, Islam rapidly gains popularity. Once again, these developments are seen through the eyes of the ―Christian― family Sjamsuddin in Jakarta. While son Bakti decides to become a muslim to marry a muslim girl, Rumidjah longs to return to her home village in Central Java. The film was a big succes. It won several international prizes, such as the Jury Prize on IDFA and the Grand Prize World Cinema Documentary, on the Sundance Film Festival.

    Completion of a trilogy
    Completing the trilogy took a lot longer: over five years of filming, and another one and a half years of editing. Retel Helmrich, who in the meantime had become a world renowned filmmaker, earned a fellowship on Harvard. Most of the editing of Position of the Stars was done there.

    Unlike the first two films, the story is more explicit. At the same time, it is more complex. Its mains focus is the influence of globalization on future perspectives of Indonesian youth. Following that central theme, daughter Tari has a more central role in the film. With this last part of the trilogy, Retel Helmrich again won the Jury Prize on IDFA and the Special Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

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