A magical work. This is perhaps the most authentic and non-cliched immersion into third world urbanity I've ever seen. Let's say you wanted to know what it would be like to live in a self-built squatter city. How do the residents make all of a life's arrangements work with so little? What do they dream about? This beautiful film perfectly captures the texture of a slum as home. No romance, no pity - only quirky complexity. You know how when you first visit a foreign place your eye focuses on small details that seem to embody the total essence of the place's strangeness? This film is like that. It's all attention, fascination and vibrancy. I can't recall a documentary more intimate; certainly no reality show comes close to a sense of 'being there' -- especially when 'there' is an edge city in the middle of one of Earth's largest pools of human chaos. The cinematography is off-beat, original, and lyrical - almost poetry. The story is too odd to make up: The wayward son of a lone minority Christian widow converts to Islam to marry a girlfriend. Here's a glimpse of the mother and son's lives. It's about family, the slums, and Indonesia in transition. It also provides one of the keenest insights -- far more revealing than you'll get by traveling as a tourist-- into what Islam feels like in the street, where religion is culture and not belief. What a memorable trip!
Shape of the Moon
Directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich
2005, 92 min.
Rent from Netflix