DER Documentary

Standing on the Edge of a Thorn

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by Robert Lemelson
color, 33 min, 2012
Indonesian, Javanese, and English with English Subtitles



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Standing on the Edge of a Thorn is an intimate portrait of a family in rural Indonesia grappling with poverty, mental illness, and participation in the sex trade. Shot over the course of 12 years, the film centers on Iman Rohani, a former civil servant struggling with a mental disorder, who takes in Tri, an unwed pregnant teenager 30 years his junior. Iman refuses to marry Tri, which would have made her an accepted member of the village. Instead, the couple are scorned by the other villagers and become isolated. Over time, trapped by traditional values that stigmatize their relationship, Iman and Tri sink even deeper into destitution and make a series of choices that lead Tri into a life a prostitution and violence.

The narrator of the film is Iman and Tri's daughter, Lisa, who has witnessed most of these events. Starting when Lisa was a young child, the film documents her unfolding sense of self and identity against the backdrop of a destitute and unstable family. As the film progresses, Lisa struggles to understand her parent's predicaments, while she herself is being drawn into the sex trade. At the end of the film, we experience Lisa as a 16-year old-teenager, attempting to free herself from her parent's conflicts and troubles, as she plans to leave the village to pursue a new life in urban Indonesia.

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Nominee, Best Documentary-style Reality Production, Impact Media Awards, New York, NY, 2013
Aperture Asia Pacific International Ethnographic Documentary Festival, Australia
Ethnografilm festival, France, 2014
Newport Beach Film Festival, Newport, CA 2013
10th "Eyes and Lenses" Ethnographic Film Review, Warsaw, Poland, 2013
United Nations Association Film Festival, Stanford, CA, 2013
XXII International Festival of Ethnological Film, Belgrade, 2013

Related Resources
Film website: www.thornfilm.com

View more photos on www.flickr.com

Related Films
Trading Women
B.A.T.A.M.
Afflictions: Culture and Mental Illness in Indonesia


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