Coming to theatres tomorrow, Friday, July 17: THE LOOK OF SILENCE
Joshua Oppenheimer’s companion piece to his provocative THE ACT OF KILLING made its debut at Venice last year. It has since gone on to screen at the New York Film Festival, Toronto, Human Rights Watch, True/False, Hamptons, San Francisco, SXSW, Abu Dhabi, and many more around the world.
Oppenheimer’s initial foray into Indonesia’s 1965-1966 genocide was lauded by many for its audacious foregrounding of the perpetrators of the murder of one million alleged communists as they boasted of their actions and gleefully re-enacted them for the camera. It also engendered concerns over documentary ethics from a fair number of detractors. With this second investigation into the horrors of Indonesia’s past, Oppenheimer has perhaps helped to address some of those critics, turning his attention from the killers to the families of their victims, and focusing specifically on Adi, an optician whose elder brother, Ramli, was murdered. With Oppenheimer’s help, Adi sets out to confront Ramli’s murderers and their own families, notably more to seek a sense of understanding and closure than revenge. Oppenheimer takes a much more subdued approach here, jettisoning the extravagant fantasy music video sequences of the first film for a rawer, honest look at how individuals can justify the most reprehensible crimes against their fellow man. Even as Adi bears witness to their past misdeeds, forcing them to think about the impact their murderous actions had on families like his, the criminals hold fast to the national narrative that they made their country safer. Like the first film, Oppenheimer’s follow-up is not an easy watch, but it underscores in its frankness the enduring wounds of Indonesia’s history and the need for truth, and in its directness and focus is perhaps an even stronger work of nonfiction as a result.