Indonesia is the fourth biggest nation in the world, and the country with the largest Muslim community on the globe. In Leonard Retel Helmrich’s latest film, SHAPE OF THE MOON, the audience is transported to the heart of this almost unknown landscape through the life of one family of three generations, who are struggling to build a bridge between hope and faith.
Rumidjah, a 62-year-old widow, lives in Jakarta, Indonesia with her son Bakti and her 13-year-old granddaughter Tari. Since the fall of dictator Suharto seven years ago, she has witnessed the country passing through a tumultuous period of socio-political chaos. Rapid globalization and democratization have spawned a subculture of criminality and uncertainty. Islam, the largest religion in Indonesia, is trying to maintain order and discipline, while becoming increasingly fundamentalist in its tone, which has consequences on the everyday lives of all Indonesians, no matter their religion. Rumidjah, who is a Christian, has had more than enough of the capital’s chaos of these last years. When her son Bakti converts to Islam to marry a Muslim girl, Rumidjah seriously considers leaving the hectic city forever and moving to the safety of the countryside.
The care for her thirteen-year-old granddaughter Tari is the one and only thing that still ties Rumidjah to the city. She decides to take her on a visit to her native village in Central Java. The countryside there is bright, the sun shines almost everyday, all year round. Life is initially full of promise. Old friends of Rumidjah welcome them, and all the inhabitants of the village help her to renovate the foundations of her old wooden house. Rumidjah feels happy in the village, but for the thirteen-year-old Tari, Rumidjah sees no future in such an environment. Despite Tari’s desperate pleas to stay, Rumidjah sends her back to Jakarta with her son Bakti.
Rumidjah soon realizes that in the countryside things haven’t stayed the same either. Every day she walks through fields of rice looking for work, but mechanization has made it almost impossible to find employment on the farms. Survival as an old uneducated woman in the face of such brutal change is difficult. Rumidjah manages to find small comfort thinking of her granddaughter who is now getting a good education in Jakarta, and who will certainly get further in life. Through her faith in God, Rumidjah carries on looking for work and doesn’t lose hope for a better future.