Leonard Retel Helmrich
Netherlands 2003 | 52 Min. | BetaSP, OmeU

Togeth­er with the other javanese youths from the board­ing school, the young teenag­er Johan is to learn the Arabic lan­guage and fit­ting piety. His school­books come from Saudi Arabia. He enters a world in which Osama Bin Laden and Jamal Islami­ah are not known as ter­ror­ists, but as fight­ers of the infi­del, and there­fore idols. Besides polit­i­cal dis­cus­sions, social life is struc­tured by the prac­tice of faith through prayer and wor­ship. The con­stant pres­ence of fellow stu­dents and nights spent togeth­er in large dor­mi­to­ries make pri­va­cy impos­si­ble and hinder all forms of individuality.

In FLIGHT FROM HEAVEN, Helmrich’s camera is almost always on the move, and fol­lows the events as they unfold. It strives to detect emo­tions amongst the char­ac­ters and the faces of the faith­ful, in the teach­ers and the stu­dents alike. In this way, he suc­ceeds in endow­ing his rela­tion­ship to Johan with a human touch. We watch the young boy dis­cov­er his school, and wit­ness the changes in his per­son­al­i­ty. His ini­tial shy­ness turns into curios­i­ty and respect, but as time goes by, he grows increas­ing­ly dis­trust­ful. Final­ly, he flees the school and tem­porar­i­ly returns to his par­ents - on the very day images of the Bali ter­ror­ist attack flick­er across the tele­vi­sion screen. A mere coincidence?