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Help Is On The Way

Help Is On The Way brings to the screen a busy training centre in Indonesia, that prepares women to work overseas as domestic workers. It is at times an emotional journey, but also funny, enlightening and a little competitive, offering a unique insight into a lifestyle not often seen on screen.

Every year, thousands of predominately Muslim women like Sukma, Meri, Muji and Tari aspire to work in countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. They are among the many women from rural areas recruited by local agents who are remunerated after successfully seeing their recruits enrolled. At the school they learn language skills and elderly care, preparing themselves for the work they will undertake overseas.

There are many reasons for women to work abroad, such as; to support their family, escape their family or to experience a sense of independence and excitement. Negotiations with family are carefully handled, as they are not always happy to see their loved ones go abroad, for what will be years, whilst other families are happy. While the women bring income that can alleviate their family poverty, at what cost and are they really improving their lives?

Help Is On The Way explores the lives of the various women that undertake the required training and development. Lucky students find work within weeks. Others see themselves waiting almost 12 months, draining their family wealth while hoping for a successful interview result. It also explores the role of the agents, teachers, and personnel at the school as well as current workers in Taiwan.

  • Ismail Fahmi Lubis
    Tarling Is Darling
  • Nick Calpakdjian
  • Mark Olsen
  • Ismail Fahmi Lubis
    Tarling Is Darling
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Soicial Issue, Women, Migration
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 30 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    November 30, 2019
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
    Indonesia, Taiwan
  • Language:
    Chinese, English, Indonesian
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Piala Citra Festival Film Indonesia 2019

    Winner: Best Feature Documentary
  • Taiwan International Documentary Festival
    May 7, 2020
    Official Selection (Asian Vision Competition)
  • Hong Kong International Documentary Festival
    Hong Kong
    Hong Kong
    November 21, 2020
    International Doc Competition
  • EBS International Documentary Film Festival

    Korea, Republic of
    August 17, 2020
  • JOGJA-NETPAC Asian Film Festival
    November 27, 2020
    Official Selection: Asian Perspectives
  • Festival Film Dokumentar
    November 27, 2020
    Winner - Best Indonesian Documentary
  • Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival 2020
    December 10, 2020
    Official Selection
  • Dili International Film Festival
    October 1, 2020
    Official Selection
  • Bali International Film Festival
    May 27, 2021
    Official Selection
  • Indonesia Film Festival
    April 1, 2021
    Australian Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Thin Line Film Festival
    United States
    March 24, 2021
    North American Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Pakistan International Mountain Film Festival

    Official Selection
Distribution Information
  • Filmotor
    Sales Agent
    Country: Worldwide
    Rights: All Rights, Internet
Director Biography - Ismail Fahmi Lubis

Ismail is one of Indonesia’s premiere documentary filmmakers.

Upon graduating from Institut Kesenian (Institute of Arts) Jakarta in 1993, majoring in Film and Directing, he directed several Indonesian drama series before switching his focus to documentary in 1998. As a cinematographer, Ismail has worked with notable filmmakers including Leonard Retel Helmrich and Cathy Henkel. He has also worked as a tutor for Documentary Master Classes at the Jakarta International Film Festival (JIFFEST) in 2006 and 2007.

Ismail has directed two feature documentaries; Masked Monkey - The Evolution of Darwin’s Theory (2014) and Tarling is Darling (2017). Tarling is Darling premiered at Busan International FIlm Festival. Both films screened at the Taiwan International Film Festival with Tarling is Darling winning a Special Jury Mention award in 2018.

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Director Statement

Women of varied ages, many barely out of their teenage years, look to work overseas. Often they not only seek to support themselves, but also the needs of their families. While many women choose freely to undertake this kind of work, many also do so through a sense of obligation. Basic needs are often what drives the women to work overseas. The need to pay for children's education, pay back debt or to support their parents. Working abroad gives them the chance to earn more than they could by working at home. For some it’s also an adventure.

In today’s modern society, basic needs are often mixed with newfound wants. All kinds of products come at us in tantalizing ways. Consumerism may once have been something more prevalent in the cities, but has now crept into the countryside. Access to online media sources has shown those that once may have been uninformed, what is happening outside their village. As a result, many seek to be included in this outside world. In countries like Indonesia, where options for the unskilled are few, they venture abroad. It’s their ticket to a perceived better life. But at what cost?

I have chosen to tell this story to highlight the struggle that individuals, particularly women, face within Indonesia’s work-force and family situation. And in doing so, I can explore issues such as gender equality. The women head off to work while the men stay home. What will this reversal of roles, result in? Do the men support it... or does it give them an excuse to have, another life? These are some of the questions I hope to find answers to.