US director Joshua Oppenheimer‘s Danish-produced documentary on the 1965-1966 Indonesian genocide, The Act of Killing [+] (2012), was nominated for an Oscar and collected 43 prizes on the international festival circuit, including a BAFTA award. Now The Look of Silence, the ”companion piece” depicting the event from the victims’ point of view, will have its world premiere in competition for the Golden Lion at the 71st Venice International Film Festival, which runs between 27 August and 6 September.
In The Act of Killing, Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn and an anonymous Indonesian director challenge former death-squadron leaders, now celebrated as heroes, to re-enact their real-life mass killings in the style of the American movies they love.
The Look of Silence follows a family whose son was executed in the genocide, aka the Indonesian Killings, having been accused of being a communist. Through the filmmakers’ work, the documentary discovers how he was murdered and unveils the identities of the men who were responsible. Their youngest son, now an adult, vows to confront the people who took the life of his brother, asking how he can raise his children in a society where survivors are terrorised into silence.
“A lyrical elegy to this silence, but also a poem about breaking it and the trauma it represents,” is how Oppenheimer describes the second act. ”In Indonesia, it is unthinkable that a survivor seeks out the perpetrator, so the brother violates one taboo after another – he is met with fear, anger and threats.” It was always Oppenheimer’s intention to make two films, produced by Signe Byrge Sørensen, of Denmark’s Final Cut for Real Productions. Israel’s Cinephil/Philippa Kowarsky handles international sales.