Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Confronting Evil

*Originally Posted 9/29/14 from New York Film Festival coverage.

The Look of Silence (2014) - Oppenheimer
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Joshua Oppenheimer finds one brave soul to be on camera and face the killers who killed his brother. He happens to be Adi, a traveling optometrist in a rural Indonesia. Just like in the eye-opening revelation that was The Act of Killing, Oppenheimer is not in a hurry to lay the groundwork for us. 'In 1965, more than a million 'communists' were exterminated by a military hired gangsters'. The first sentence of the preface is enough to go on. This time, he lets the victim's side to voice their opinions. It's not a dictatorship anymore in Indonesia, but the killers of those days are still largely in charge, living side by side with the victim's families. Teachers in schools are still teaching 'the communists were really bad people who gauged people's eyes out and therefore deserved to die.' Everyone, including the family members whose loved ones were hacked to death and their body thrown into the river, don't want to dig up old wounds. Let bygones be bygones. Even though Adi was born after 65', he can't let go without getting some kind of closure on what exactly happened to his brother, seeing his ailing, grieving parents everyday. Thankfully, Oppenheimer has recorded these killers since 2003 and shows him the footage of these killers boasting about their mass killings proudly and reenacting them, especially about his brother. One of the killers who passed on recently, actually wrote a book about his deeds with hand drawn pictures.

As they visit many of these killers, things get uncomfortable. "Josh, stop filming! I don't like you anymore!" "Why are you asking me all this? Your questions are too deep. I don't like to talk about politics too deep!" "Where do you live? What's your sub-district? You know what you are doing is a communist activity?"

Adi believes that these people on tape have guilty conscience. Otherwise, why would they openly say these things and reenact their own killings?

They drank their victims blood, in the belief that they won't go mad after their countless killings. Because some went mad, they say. It was salty and sweet.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the movie is when they visit one of such killers at home. A young daughter, about Adi's age apologizes for her father, who is sitting right next to her. In the beginning of the interview, she tells them that she regarded her father as a hero because what they taught her in school. Then her father says he drank the blood of the victims. Her face distorts, "How sadistic." Almost crying, she says "We are like family, you can visit me any time. Look at him, he is an old man. Please forgive him."

The Look of Silence is just as strong and chilling as The Act of Killing. The fact is that Adi's story is just one of the million makes the experience all the most devastating. It's in Adi's silent stares - a complete, utter condemnation that will haunt you for days.

The Look of Silence opens theatrically on July 17. Please visit Landmark Sunshine Cinema's website for tickets.

My review of The Act of Killing

My interview with Joshua Oppenheimer (for The Act of Killing)

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