To commemorate International Human Rights Day on December 10th, the award-winning documentary “The Look of Silence” is being made available to the people of Indonesia as a free download. The film did show there in theaters. Director Joshua Oppenheimer is orchestrating this free access to the film in Indonesia in perpetuity with several partners: producer Signe Byrge Sørensen, Indonesian producer Anonymous, in collaboration with US distributors Drafthouse Films and Participant Media, integrated digital platform VHX and Danish film production company Final Cut for Real ApS. The Indonesian-language version of the film will also be available to stream for free on YouTube.
“The Look of Silence,” Oppenheimer’s companion piece to his Oscar-nominated “The Act of Killing,” is the film he initially set out to make almost ten years ago. “The Look of Silence” has won over 45 international awards, including the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival, the Gotham Award for Best Documentary of 2015, the IDA Award for Best Feature of 2015 and is shortlisted in Best Feature Documentary for the 2015 Oscars.
In “The Look of Silence,” a family discovers how their son was murdered in the 1965 Indonesian genocide, as well as the killers’ identities. The family’s youngest son, an optometrist named Adi, while testing their eyesight, confronts the men who remain in power, asking them to accept responsibility for their actions and end 50 years of silence.
By making the film available for free in Indonesia on VHX and YouTube, Oppenheimer hopes that “The Look of Silence” will be accessible to many more people, and will open a wide-ranging discussion of the 1965-66 genocide. “This is the first film in history in which survivors confront perpetrators of atrocities while the perpetrators remain in power,” stated Oppenheimer. “By giving the film to all Indonesians, we hope to support the national conversation so urgently needed to end this terrifying impunity, and make healing possible.”
The Oscar-nominated “The Act of Killing” has also been available for free online since 2013, and has since been viewed by millions of Indonesians. Since then, Oppenheimer’s two films have helped break the logjam of 50 years silence on the genocide, and started a national conversation about what happened and its lethal legacy. “The Act of Killing” can also be downloaded for free from Indonesia here and here. The Indonesian language copy can be viewed on YouTube.
Oppenheimer hopes that a wider digital distribution of “The Look of Silence” will energize a popular movement demanding the Indonesian government acknowledge and address the genocide and take urgent steps to end impunity, as Indonesian President Joko Widodo promised to do when he was running for office in 2014.
Adi Rukun, the protagonist of “The Look of Silence,” hopes that all Indonesians will download or stream the film and demand an official national acknowledgment of the atrocities: “I hope that if enough people watch the film, the government will be forced to acknowledge the truth, and we as a nation will acknowledge how we still live under the dark shadow of genocide, so healing can begin.”
In the United States, the two films prompted Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) to introduce a resolution urging Indonesia to acknowledge the genocide and initiate a process of truth, justice, and reconciliation, while also demanding that the United States take responsibility for its role in these massacres and declassify all documents detailing that role. Tens of thousands of Americans have signed a petition urging their senators to support this resolution.