#63, Watch three documentary films, 2/3
After seeing the Academy Awards, I was interested in watching a film from the documentary nominees. Last night on AppleTV, the film, “The Look of Silence, ” was the featured 99-cent film so I chose to watch it.
It tells the story of a surviving family from the Indonesian genocide in 1965 where a million people were killed, and is a companion film to Oppenheimer’s 2012 film, The Act of Killing.
I watched both films back to back and it left me questioning what it means to be human. These films are meant to unsettle us, meant to force us to raise questions, meant to guide us away from repeating our mistakes, and meant to help us admit our failings so that the healing of others might begin. They are both astonishing beautiful and phenomenally terrifying.
It’s difficult to wake up and look at the world the same way, once the curtains are parted and we find ourselves staring evil in the face. It’s even more difficult to know what to do in the wake of such awareness, but I think Joshua Oppenheimer is on the right track. He is holding a lens up to the suffering, making us see it, making us see both the perpetrator and the victims in ourselves, and shaping our ability to confront the tragedies into a lantern that can light the path to a life beyond them.
Here is the trailer to The Look of Silence.
The film won a Spirit award, among other awards, but the director, Joshua Oppenheimer’s acceptance speech was cut short. Here it is in its entirety:
“The Indonesian genocide began 50 years ago today, but in a terrible, important way it hasn’t ended, because the perpetrators are still in power, and millions of survivors still live in fear. Nevertheless, I’m deeply honored that our films, The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence, have led to a movement for truth, justice, and reconciliation in Indonesia where once there was silence – or even noisy celebration.
Yet the silence in the title also refers to our silence. Because the Indonesian genocide is not just Indonesian history, but American history. The US provided weapons, money, and training to the death squads, and lists of thousands of names of public figures whom United States wanted killed. We in the US must do the same work as Indonesians. We must declassify the documents that reveal our role in these crimes, and take responsibility.
We are so honored by the support of the independent film community, because your recognition of our work helps us use the film to make real change. Right after the Oscars, we will be traveling with indonesia’s national human rights commission to Washington, D.C., to meet with White House staff, urging our government to declassify the documents and acknowledge its role in these crimes. Film, particularly independent film, can hold up a mirror of truth, but only with your help. For that help, we are so grateful.'”
I found the film so profoundly moving, disturbing, and artistically evocative, that I wanted to learn more about the director. Here is a “masterclass” interview with him. It is interesting to learn about his process, his goals for the film, and both his approach to the film and the lessons he learned in the making of it.
In the next clip, the director talks about two disturbing moments from the film.
Lastly, here is a clip of Joshua talking about both films.
I hope you get the opportunity to see the films. If you have the time, choose to watch the longer director’s cut of The Act of Killing.
Lastly, if you get nothing else from these films, I hope you are at least compelled to vote for government that is compassionate both on a national and a global scale. I hope we can all take responsibility for the governments we choose and the way our representatives behave in the world. There must be a way to govern ourselves by choosing compassion over greed, choosing understanding over power, and choosing to pay less attention to the borders that divide us and more attention to the humanity that links us.
305 days to go.