Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Look of Silence - Venice Film Festival 2014

THE LOOK OF SILENCE by Josh Oppenheimer
(Venice, Italy) THE LOOK OF SILENCE is the riveting companion film to Josh Oppenheimer's Academy Award-nominated 2012 documentary about the 1965-66 genocide in Indonesia entitled, THE ACT OF KILLING, which I have not yet seen. It is not necessary to see The Act of Killing to appreciate The Look of Silence, which stands alone.

On screen, Adi Rukun, the protagonist of The Look of Silence, who is an optician by trade, watches scenes from The Act of Killing in which members of the civilian militia enthusiastically reenact how they chopped off people's heads, slashed open their stomachs and chests, cut off their penises, sliced their throats, drank their blood, and then threw them in Snake River, all with the intent of cleaning the country of "communists." Adi's older brother, Ramli, was one of over one million victims; the difference between Ramli and the others who were slaughtered is that Ramli's death had witnesses.

Adi's parents today
Adi was born after his brother's murder when his parents were middle-aged; they are now both in their 100s. His mother is still wracked with sorrow over the death of Ramli; his father is blind and senile. The Indonesia genocide has been propagandized and covered-up -- to this day, the survivors have been terrorized into silence.

Oppenheimer's 2012 documentary The Act of Killing helped to break the silence. The Look of Silence goes further when Adi confronts those responsible for his brother's murder, not with anger, but with a deep desire to understand their motivation. Adi is not out for revenge: he wants to know why the family he grew up in is so traumatized and afraid. He wants the killers to acknowledge what they did, and to apologize, so the entire country can move forward. His story represents more than one million other Indonesians.


I don't know what is more astonishing -- that Oppenheimer actually got the killers -- who are still in power in Indonesia -- to boast about their acts on camera, or that they seem to feel absolutely no remorse whatsoever, and seem to have acted with complete impunity. It is as if they literally have been brainwashed to believe they have done something wonderful -- they giggle and laugh as they describe their sadistic murders. There is nothing normal or human about it.

Oppenheimer said:

"I did not know if it was safe to approach the killers, but when I did, I found all of them to be boastful, immediately recounting the killings, often with smiles on their faces, in front of their small grandchildren. In this contract between survivors forced into silence and perpetrators boastfully recounting stories far more incriminating than anything the survivors could have told, I felt I'd wandered into Germany 40 years after the Holocaust, only to find the Nazis still in power."

This time, I agree with all the reviews.

The Guardian:

The Look of Silence: Act of Killing director's second film is as horrifically gripping as first

Joshua Oppenheimer's stunning follow-up to 'The Act of Killing' shifts focus to the victims of Indonesia's communist purge.

Joshua Oppenheimer’s companion piece to 'The Act of Killing' revisits Indonesia’s mass murders of the 1960s and the outer reaches of human evil

Joshua Oppenheimer's film about Indonesia’s mass murders of the Sixties is a shattering voyage into the jungle of human nature

Joshua Oppenheimer
At the press conference, the last question Oppenheimer was asked was what his plans were for the future. He was evasive. Also, earlier, Oppenheimer had not answered a journalist who asked him if he thought he could have made the film in the United States -- he is an American based in Copenhagen, Denmark, and has pushed the US to acknowledge its role in the genocide. I, too, was curious what his answer would be, so I asked him after the conference (due to time constraints.) I said, "Josh, you didn't answer the question. COULD you have made this film in the United States?" Oppenheimer seemed genuinely bewildered. "Did I get asked that? Maybe that's the answer to the last question. Maybe that's what I'm going to do next."

Ciao from the Venice Film Festival,
Cat
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

1 comment:

  1. On screen, Adi Rukun, the protagonist of The Look of Silence, who is an optician by trade, watches scenes from The Act of Killing in which members of the civilian militia enthusiastically reenact how they chopped off people's heads, slashed open their stomachs and chests, cut off their penises, sliced their throats, drank their blood, and then threw them in Snake River, all with the intent of cleaning the country of "communists."

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