Joshua Oppenheimer follows his extraordinary The Act of Killing with an equally revelatory documentary in which boastful perpetrators of Indonesia’s 1965 massacres are confronted by the brother of one of their victims.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2015
“Joshua Oppenheimer’s groundbreaking documentary The Act of Killing confronted viewers with a moral vacuum in which the perpetrators of the politically motivated massacres that roiled Indonesia in 1965 were only too happy to reenact their crimes. In the director’s own words, ‘I felt I’d wandered into Germany 40 years after the Holocaust, only to find the Nazis still in power.’ The Look of Silence widens the frame to include the victims’ perspective. Less a sequel than a companion piece, the film follows gentle optometrist Adi as he asks the killers about their crimes – among them, the vicious murder of his elder brother.
The interviewees insist that ‘the past is past’, and yet it’s only too clear that the lack of accountability leaves the threat intact: one former killer darkly intimates that Adi’s actions could be understood as communist activity, while another – a legislator no less – is even more explicit in promising that further questioning will prompt more killing. Oppenheimer continues to test the limits of observational documentary in his aesthetic interpretation of trauma. A startling and grave work sure to be discussed for years to come, The Look of Silence bears witness to the intolerable absence of truth and reconciliation.” — Max Goldberg, San Francisco International Film Festival
“When the end credits roll, and you notice most of the crew’s names are listed as ‘anonymous’, the threat seems fresh and immediate… This is an essential companion piece to Oppenheimer’s earlier film; another astonishing heart-of-darkness voyage into the jungle of human nature.” — Robbie Collin, The Telegraph