Tag Archives: human rights

MIFF 2015 – The Look of Silence (2014) with Q & A

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer

In this companion documentary to the Act of Killing, Adi, whose brother was killed in the Communist purges in Indonesia during 1965 confronts the killers responsible for his brother’s death in an effort to get them to apologise or at least admit their guilt.

How Adi manages to keep it together in the face of such shocking admissions from the killers is nothing short of extraordinary and he is also threatened at times as his questions are seen as too deep and probing.
I would recommend watching this if you have seen the Act of Killing or even if you have not but be warned there are some brutal descriptions of the killings by the people who carried them out and the behaviour of some of the killers is even worse.

From the Q&A Joshua Oppenheimer said they started filming with Adi and the survivors first, but after three weeks the army threatened them and they had to shut down.
It was the survivors who suggested that they film with the perpetrators of the killings as they were open to talking about it.

As it turned out this was a good idea as the perpetrators boasted of the killings and after filming interviews with 40 people, Anwar Congo was the 41st person filmed and turned out to be the main protagonist of the first film.
Joshua thinks that the boasting and guilt are related and the killers are putting on a performance when they describe the killings as they do not merely recount what happened.

Adi watched all the footage that Joshua sent him over the seven years while making the first movie.

Joshua gave Adi a camcorder to record a video diary, one thing that Adi filmed ended up in the Look of Silence.

It was decided by Joshua to make two movies way back in 2004, one with the perpetrators and the other with the victims.

It was Adi’s idea to meet his brother’s killers, Joshua was against it as he did not think it would be safe.

Adi said he wanted to do it as he did not want his children to live in a “prison of fear” as his parents had done. The footage he shot that appears in the movie shows the day his father was too far gone to be able to conquer his fears as his mind was gone.

The film was shot in the months before the Act of Killing premiered in 2012. While the first movie covers Indonesia-wide killings, the second movie focusses on one village in Northern Sumatra.
Joshua did not think they would get to finish filming after the first film came out and he was waiting for them to be shut down.

Q – What happened to Adi?

A – The Act of Killing led to a change of attitudes in Indonesia so the killings are now regarded as a genocide and not covered up. Although Joshua cannot return to Indonesia, Adi and his family remained but moved to another part of the country. He has since opened an Optometrist and there are people monitoring his safety. He has not received any death threats but Joshua continues to.

There is still too much corruption in Indonesia and it is a democracy in name only according to Joshua Oppenheimer.

Q – Is there a truth and reconciliation commission? What is the role of other countries?
A – The International Criminal Court (ICC) cannot try the cases as they happened before it was set up.
There could be a special tribunal set up by the UN Security Council but several countries that supported Indonesia in the killings have veto power and would not agree to it.
A senator saw the film and is moving a resolution to get the files in the USA involving the support of Indonesia at the time declassified. There is a petition to support this resolution.
Major corporations used slave labour from people detained around the time of the killings.
The USA provided the radios used to organise the killings and a list of names.

Q – What about West Papua and the involvement of corporations?
A – The film takes place in Northern Sumatra. There was no need for other massacres in other parts of the country as people were scared into silence. Atrocities are still being committed by the militias and supported by the Army.