Here’s three things that you need to know about director Joshua Oppenheimer, an American filmmaker who’s based in Copenhagen, Denmark: 1.) He directed the widely beloved “The Act of Killing,” a documentary routinely found on many year-end best-of lists in 2013. 2.) Documentary luminaries like Werner Herzog and Errol Morris have vigorously endorsed his work, and 3.) Indonesia is his area of expertise. His latest doc “The Look of Silence” —a quasi-sequel to ‘Killing’— premieres today at the Venice Film Festival. Executive produced by Herzog and Morris, the movie is a chronicle regarding the Indonesian genocide of 1965–66. The Venice Film Festival has released the first clip. Here’s the official synopsis:
Through Joshua Oppenheimer’s work filming perpetrators of the Indonesian genocide, a family of survivors discovers how their son was murdered and the identity of the men who killed him. The youngest brother is determined to break the spell of silence and fear under which the survivors live, and so confronts the men responsible for his brother’s murder – something unimaginable in a country where killers remain in power.
Here’s Oppenheimer’s director’s statement.
The Act of Killing exposed the consequences for all of us when we build our everyday reality on terror and lies. The Look of Silence explores what it is like to be a survivor in such a reality. Making any film about survivors of genocide is to walk into a minefield of clichés, most of which serve to create a heroic (if not saintly) protagonist with whom we can identify, thereby offering the false reassurance that, in the moral catastrophe of atrocity, we are nothing like perpetrators. But presenting survivors as saintly in order to reassure ourselves that we are good is to use survivors to deceive ourselves. It is an insult to survivors’ experience, and does nothing to help us understand what it means to survive atrocity, what it means to live a life shattered by mass violence, and to be silenced by terror. To navigate this minefield of clichés, we have had to explore silence itself. The result, The Look of Silence, is, I hope, a poem about a silence borne of terror – a poem about the necessity of breaking that silence, but also about the trauma that comes when silence is broken. Maybe the film is a monument to silence – a reminder that although we want to move on, look away and think of other things, nothing will make whole what has been broken. Nothing will wake the dead. We must stop, acknowledge the lives destroyed, strain to listen to the silence that follows.
And here’s some high praise from Herzog and Morris.
“The Look of Silence is profound, visionary, and stunning.” Werner Herzog
“One of the greatest and most powerful documentaries ever made. A profound comment on the human condition.” Errol Morris
Of course they’re going to laud the film; they’re the executive producers. But stick around, read our review later, and you’ll learn that they’re not the only ones who hold Oppenheimer’s work in high esteem. Watch the film’s first official clip below and check out a new film still from the movie. Drafthouse Films and Participant Media have picked up the U.S. rights to the movie, which will be released next summer.