In 2013, Drafthouse Films released The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer's unprecedented examination of the 1965–66 Indonesian genocide, which Oppenheimer unwrapped through a series of interviews with the perpetrators complemented by a series of dramatic re-enactments orchestraed by the killers themselves. Executive produced by Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, the film was nominated for the Academy Award® for Best Documentary at the 2014 Oscars, won a number of awards, including the BAFTA, and was featured on dozens of 2013 Best Of lists.
But, perhaps most importantly, it forced open a dialog where previously none had existed. The genocide, which the majority of the Western world is unfamiliar with, became a point of conversation, and now needed to be recognized. At home in Indonesia, hundreds of covert screenings of the film (the film was not rated by the country's government controlled censorship board, for fear that the military would itself respond to an "illegal" screening with impunity) also thrust the previously verboten topic into the light. The Indonesian election was undoubtedly effected by the existence of The Act of Killing, but new president Joko Widodo, perceived as a progressive candidate (albeit one whose cabinet features unrepentant interviewees from the film), has, as of yet not lived up to his promise.
Two years after The Act of Killing, Drafthouse Films is releasing The Look of Silence, Oppenheimer's companion piece that he filmed in Indonesia at the same time as his previous film. Where the first film was a document of the genocide through the accounts of the perpetrators, The Look of Silence tells the story through the perspective of the victims, namely Adi, a young man whose elder brother was murdered.
Over the course of Oppenheimer's interviews with the perpetrators, Adi uncoveres the identities of the men responsible for his brother's murder. The film then follows his bold mission, unthinkable in a country where the military government responsible for the genocide remains in power: confronting these men in conversation and demanding them to accept accountability for what they've done.
And these conversations can prove as chilling as anything seen in The Act of Killing.
Watch our haunting theatrical trailer for The Look of Silence below, and see it when it hits theaters starting July 17th.