Famed filmmaker hosts screening of his documentary on the Indonesian Massacres

by Cami Buckman, Senior Staff Writer

Notable philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist George Santayana once said those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

In the years of 1965 and 1966, it was estimated that between 500,000 to one million people were killed for political reasons in what’s referred to as the Indonesian Massacres or Indonesian Genocide.

Many Americans have little knowledge of Indonesian affairs, let alone the mass death that occurred 50 years ago.

However, one filmmaker set out to change that in his latest Oscar-nominated film.

Documentary filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer will be presenting his film “The Look of Silence” at 7:15 p.m. on  Tuesday, Feb. 23 in the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union theater.

As part of the campus-life movie series, “The Look of Silence” is free admission for all who attend. Doors will open at 6:45 p.m., and Oppenheimer will host a Q&A session following the film screening.

“The Look of Silence” is Oppenheimer’s powerful companion piece to his 2012 film “The Act of Killing.” With Oppenheimer’s footage of perpetrators in the 1965 Indonesian genocide, a family of survivors was able to discover how their son was murdered and the identities of his killers.

This documentary focuses on the family’s youngest son, an optometrist named Adi, who decides to confront the men who killed his brother. While testing the perpetrators’ eyesight, he does the unthinkable and asks them to accept responsibility for their actions.

“There is a rare documentary film that makes a difference and changes things, and this is an example of a film that has,” theater, television and film professor Mark Freeman said.

This compelling film initiates, and witnesses first hand, the collapse of 50 years of silence and terror in Indonesia.

“The Act of Killing” tells the story of Indonesia’s genocide through the boastful perpetrators that continue to remain in power. On the other hand, “The Look of Silence” takes the opposing angle and focuses on a family affected by the brutality of the massacres.

TFM sophomore Neil Murcko is excited for the opportunity to hear Oppenheimer speak in person and present his film.

“‘The Look of Silence’ has been on my must-watch list, so yeah, this is pretty exciting for me,” Murcko said.

Oppenheimer worked on his film from 2004 to 2012 and hopes it will ignite global awareness and action.

“‘The Look of Silence’ is, I hope, a poem about a silence born of terror,” Oppenheimer said. “A poem not only about the necessity of breaking that silence, but also about the trauma that comes when silence is broken.”

Freeman hopes this event will not only attract film admirers but also illuminate students looking to become informed and global citizens.

“I think it’s a great opportunity both because it’s a good topic, and Joshua is just a tremendous filmmaker,” Freeman said. “It’s hard to believe, but he brings a poetic sensibility and a great deal of compassion to a very complicated story.”

“The Look of Silence” dares to expose those who are responsible for the savage killings, and remember those who have been forgotten.

“Nothing will wake the dead,” Oppenheimer said. “We must stop, acknowledge the lives destroyed, and strain to listen to the silence that follows.”