In 1965 Western-backed military groups successfully defended the seat of the Indonesian government after an attempted coup allegedly by the Indonesian Communist Party. In retaliation, the military utilized the talents of gangsters and thugs around the country to effect so-called "Communist purges," resulting in these newly-formed death squads attacking Indonesian citizens with impunity. Millions of people were displaced, imprisoned or slaughtered under the false pretense of preserving democracy. The military counter was successful, its leaders revered as heroes, with no reckoning to be had on behalf of the victims.
Two years ago, Joshua Oppenheimer shared his unforgettable documentary The Act of Killing with the world. Focusing on the unrepentant death squad leaders, held unaccountable for their actions to this day, The Act of Killing was a shock to the world: how did this happen? How did we not know about it? It won dozens of awards across the globe and was nominated for an Academy Award® for best documentary in 2014. As a true victory for cinema, it began to effect a global dialogue, particularly in Indonesia, where a culture of fear, intimidation and repression and silence has been in effect for the last fifty years.
Ripples have already been felt in Indonesia; elections in 2014 saw the unseating of presidential incumbent Yudhoyono, who had close ties with Suharto, the general who led the post-coup retaliation and held the presidency for the three decades following.
Now, on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the Communist purges, Oppenheimer's follow-up film The Look of Silence returns to Indonesia. However, where Killing featured the leaders of the death squads, Silence focuses on Adi Rukun, whose brother had been murdered during the purges. While reviewing footage from Oppenheimer's work on Killing, Adi was able to identify the men responsible for his brother's death. The Look of Silence is Adi's story, as he confronts each of the men in turn in a series of fearless, and unprecedented, interviews.
Once again executive produced by Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, The Look of Silence is the second and final part of Oppenheimer's Indonesian diptych. Hailed as a "masterpiece" by the New York Times, awarded Critics Pick by Time Out New York and The Village Voice, and winner of almost forty international awards including the Grand Jury Prize, Critics Prize and Human Rights Award at Venice Film Festival, The Look of Silence opens today in New York City at Landmark Sunshine, with Oppenheimer in person for multiple Q&As over the weekend.
The film will open at LA's Landmark Nuart next Friday with another round of Oppenheimer Q&As before expanding to other major national markets over the following weeks, inclunding Q&A screenings with Oppenheimer in Boston (alongside executive producer Errol Morris) and DC.
Help end fifty years of silence by signing this petition asking the US government to recognize the 1965-66 killings and witness by bearing witness to Adi's courage in The Look of Silence, coming soon to a theater near you.