Telling a history of Indonesian genocide through staged reenactments with former death squad members, Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary The Act Of Killing brought past and present together in utterly chilling fashion. As much as the country would like to put the murder of more than a million “communists” in the late 1960s behind it, the septuagenerian killers themselves not only roam free, but still have the power to coerce and terrorize the populace. The film was acclaimed in many corners, and The Dissolve was no exception: It was one of the first movies to get our “Essential Viewing” tag; it wound up at No. 6 on our collective best films of 2013 list; and Oppenheimer recommended Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant in our feature “The Last Great Movie I Saw.” When word circulated that Oppenheimer was working on a sequel to The Act Of Killing, our response was a mix of excitement and trepidation—not over the quality of the film, which was likely to be high, but over the promise of another grueling emotional experience.
The Look Of Silence turns out to be better—and somehow more wrenching—than we ever dared hope. It also goes a long way toward answering the critics of the first film, who complained that it gave the killers a platform while giving short shrift to the victims of their atrocities. Oppenheimer’s anonymous subject had an older brother who was among the dead; the film follows him as he bravely confronts the men responsible, many of whom still hold power in democratic Indonesia. Here’s the trailer:
The trail of the tape
Title: The Look Of Silence
Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
Release date: TBA, Summer 2015
The entire trailer in one line of dialogue: “If I came to you like this in the middle of the military dictatorship, what would you have done to me?”
The entire trailer in one screengrab (in response to the above question):
The Look Of Silence was my favorite movie out of TIFF 2014, and a lock for my Top 10 list in 2015. I wrote this about it in our wrap-up piece:
Oppenheimer’s follow-up/companion piece to The Act Of Killing is somehow more disturbing, if not more innovative, in confronting the terrible reality of the perpetrators of Indonesian genocide in the late 1960s still enjoying immense political power. By pointing out this very large elephant in the room, the film shows unfathomable courage in the face of unfathomable evil.