The Look of Silence
In 1965 in Indonesia, almost one million citizens were butchered by death squads, accused of being “communists”. In 2012, filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer made the multi-award-winning ‘The Act of Killing’, a series of interviews with death-squad leaders in which the men recount their involvement in this mass murder. Two years later, Oppenheimer returned to the subject, this time following an unnamed man in his 40s whose brother Ramli was a victim of the killings.
The man, an optician, watches footage shot by Oppenheimer during the making of ‘The Act of Killing’, some of which features men describing in detail how they executed his brother. Under the pretense of conducting eye exams, Ramli’s brother confronts several of the killers and their accomplices in an attempt to understand their actions and perhaps even to forgive them for the pain he has carried all his life.
Stories of genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass political murder are by their very nature shocking and horrifying. What is most disturbing here, however, is the pernicious lack of remorse on the part of the killers – indeed, they seem to consider themselves not only in the right, but heroes of the people. The propaganda that vilified the “communists” more than half a century ago still holds. The gap between the perpetrators of the horror and those who wish to come to terms with it is a gaping wound that cannot be healed.
It is, finally, incomprehensible.
About the Director
Born in 1974 in the United States, two-time Academy Award nominee Joshua Oppenheimer is the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant. His debut feature-length film, ‘The Act of Killing’ (2012) was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, named Film of the Year by ‘The Guardian’ and the ‘Sight and Sound’ Film Poll, and won 72 international awards, including a European Film Award, a BAFTA, an Asia Pacific Screen Award, a Berlin International Film Festival Audience Award, and the Guardian Film Award for Best Film. His second film, ‘The Look of Silence’ (2014) had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, where it won five awards including the Grand Jury Prize, the FIPRESCI Prize and the FEDEORA Prize. It was nominated for the 2016 Oscar for Best Documentary Film, and has received 66 international awards, including an International Documentary Association Award for Best Documentary, a Gotham Award for Best Documentary, and three Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking. Oppenheimer is a partner at the Final Cut for Real production company in Copenhagen, and Artistic Director of the Centre for Documentary and Experimental Film at the University of Westminster, London.
- Joshua Oppenheimer
- Signe Byrge Sørensen
- Niels Pagh Andersen
- Associate Producer
- Anne Köhncke, Maria Kristensen, Heidi Elise Christensen, Joram Ten Brink
- Executive Producer
- Werner Herzog, Errol Morris, André Singer
- Lars Skree
- Sales Company
- Cinephil (Philippa Kowarsky)
- Production Company
- Final Cut for Real (Denmark)
- Henrik Garnov