Joshua Oppenheimer’s ‘The Look of Silence’ is among 15 films competing for the 2015 Academy Awards best documentary feature.
Produced in by Final Cut for Real in Denmark, The film is a sequel to Oppenheimer’s 2012 documentary “The Act of Killing” which was nominated for the 2013 Oscars. Both movies are about the Indonesian killings of 1965–66. The killings followed a coup which took place in Jakarta on the morning of 1 October 1965. The Indonesian government was overthrown by the military and Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president, founder of the nonaligned movement, and leader of the national revolution against Dutch colonialism, was deposed and replaced by rightwing General Suharto. After the coup, anybody opposed to the new military dictatorship could be accused of being a communist. In less than a year more than one million of the people opposed to the new military dictatorship were murdered.
The film is centered around a family, whose son and brother was brutally murdered in the 1965 purge of “communists”. The film focuses on the youngest son “Adi”, an optometrist who decides to confront the men that killed his brother. While checking their eyesight he asks them to take responsibility for their actions.
“The Look of Silence, is, I hope, a poem about a silence born of terror – a poem about the necessity of breaking that silence, but also about the trauma that comes when silence is broken. Maybe the film is a monument to silence – a reminder that although we want to move on, look away and think of other things, nothing will make whole what has been broken. Nothing will wake the dead. We must stop, acknowledge the lives destroyed, strain to listen to the silence that follows,” Joshua Oppenheimer writes in a directors statement. He is a partner at Final Cut for Real in Denmark and Artistic Director of the International Centre for Documentary and Experimental Film at the University of Westminster in London.
The first Indonesian screenings of The Act of Killing were held in secret and a copy in the Indonesian language was ultimately made available for free on the Internet. In contrast to this, the Indonesian premiere of The Look of Silence took place on November 10, 2014, and was hosted by Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights and the Jakarta Arts Council and the screenings were held in Indonesia’s largest theatre.
‘The Look of Silence’ will together with the 14 other films be further narrowed down to five nominees in January.