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Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards, “The Look of Silence” is Joshua Oppenheimer’s compelling companion piece to his award-winning film “The Act of Killing“, revealing the history and perpetrators of the 1965 Indonesian genocide.
After years of silence and pain, an Indonesian optometrist named Adi decides to do something unimaginable in a society where the murderers remain in power: he confronts the men who killed his brother.
In 1965, Indonesia suffered a genocide where between 500,000 to one million people were killed, in what began as a communist purge. Despite the brutality of this genocide, it was, until recently, largely undiscussed outside Indonesia – and taboo inside Indonesia. It was eliminated from the history books, and books that contained the history of the genocide were burned. The genocide remains the great unspoken cause of tension and fear in Indonesian society. And one of the reasons is that many of the perpetrators are still alive, unpunished, and in power.
With his first film, “The Act of Killing“, Joshua Oppenheimer confronted some of the perpetrators and asked them to tell their stories. Now, in this companion piece, he gives a survivor the unique opportunity to confront these men – breaking the silence once and for all.
Making this film, and “The Act of Killing“, was a dangerous proposition. While filming “The Look of Silence”, Oppenheimer had Adi’s family on constant alert to be evacuated and went on location with a getaway car. Most Indonesian crew members were credited anonymously, and Oppenheimer still receives death threats for both films.
But these films are making an impact: in 2014, the Jakarta Globe had a reader’s poll for “Person of the Year”. After the President, and the Governor, came the “crew of “The Look of Silence.” It looks like the silence is breaking.