An intimate portrait of a family grappling with poverty, mental illness, and the sex trade
32 min / 2012
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 Imam Rohani, a disturbed former civil servant who takes in Tri, an unwed pregnant teenager 30 years his junior. Imam refuses to marry Tri, which would have made her an accepted member of her village. Instead, the couple are scorned by the other villagers and become isolated.
Over time, trapped by traditional values that stigmatize their relationship, Imam 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 Imam 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. The film documents Lisa’s struggle to understand her parent’s predicaments, while she herself is being drawn into the sex trade.
Elemental Productions is a Los-Angeles based ethnographic documentary film company dedicated to the production of films focusing on the relationship between culture, psychology, and personal experience. Elemental Productions was founded in 2007 by anthropologist Robert Lemelson and evolved out of years of fieldwork and thousands of hours of footage gathered in Indonesia since 1997.
Robert Lemelson is a cultural anthropologist, ethnographic filmmaker and philanthropist. Lemelson received his M.A. from the University of Chicago and Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at the University of California Los Angeles. Lemelson’s area of specialty is transcultural psychiatry; Southeast Asian Studies, particularly Indonesia; and psychological and medical anthropology. He currently is a research anthropologist in the Semel Institute of Neuroscience UCLA, and an adjunct professor of Anthropology at UCLA. His scholarly work has appeared in numerous journals and books. Lemelson founded Elemental Productions in 2008, a documentary film company. He has directed and produced over a dozen ethnographic films related to culture, psychology and personal experience. He is also the founder and president of the Foundation for Psychocultural Research, which supports research and training in the social and neurosciences.
Alessandra Pasquino has produced broadcast commercials, documentaries and special projects for over 10 years. She has collaborated with many filmmakers and artists including: Oliver Stone, Wayne Wang, Klaus Kinski, Gregory Colbert, Leonardo Di Caprio, Pietro Scalia and Matthew Rolston. She is currently a freelance documentary producer and independent filmmaker.
Wing Ko has collaborated with a who’s who of modern artists, musicians and filmmakers. He worked with Spike Jonze on several music videos and edited the pilot for MTV’s “Jackass.” Wing helped create more than 80 music videos for Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Public Enemy and other top bands of the time. For more than 15 years he has traveled around the world and crewed skateboard videos.
Chisako Yokoyama has worked as an editor and assistant editor on studio motion pictures, independent features and narrative and documentary films. Her credits as editor include the English and Japanese language independent films “Saki,” “Takamine” and “Goemon” and as first assistant editor, “American Gangster,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Black Hawk Down” and “Good Will Hunting.”
Cross has been a professional composer for film, television and stage since 1996. He composed the score for “Oh Saigon” a feature-length documentary broadcast on the Sundance Channel. He scored the independent shorts “I Dream of Dog” and “Insomniac,” and wrote the theme and incidental music for the television series “America’s Prom Queen”.
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