The Look of Silence

PBS Premiere: June 27, 2016Check the broadcast schedule »

Film Update

An update on The Look of Silence in June 2016:

What's happened in the lives of Adi and his family since the end of the film:

In the months leading up to the film's world premiere, in Venice in 2014, Adi Rukun and his family resettled elsewhere in Indonesia, where minders and members of the film crew could keep an anxious eye on them. The film's producer arranged for Denmark to offer Adi's family open-ended visas should danger ever arise.

"We're no longer living around people who have been threatening us for 50 years. Both films opened a space that never existed before, and led to an enormous acknowledgment of the suffering and prison of silence and fear we'd been living in. We feel our stories are on the lips of everyone," said Adi. "I no longer feel afraid," he added. "I don't feel afraid at all."

Adi was visiting the United States to promote the film as part of its final Oscar® push, an activity he has embraced with vigor since audiences first beheld his story in Venice and gave him a standing ovation. We then journeyed to film festivals in Telluride, Colo., and Toronto, not only to raise awareness of the film but also to advance its mission of forcing Indonesian authorities to come to terms with their country's bloody past.

Adi is now in the middle of opening a brick-and-mortar optometry store with funds raised by the True/False Film Festival, while continuing to play a major role in Indonesia's movement for truth, reconciliation, and justice.

The New York Times, February 12, 2016. "Adi Rukun, Neither Silent Nor Intimidated"

How the Indonesian government's response to The Look of Silence varied from the way The Act of Killing was received:

This April, Indonesia's Presidential Advisory Council organized the first government-sponsored forum for addressing the killings - a two-day symposium that brought together survivors and ex-military leaders. Immediately afterwards, president instructed his security minister to begin a formal investigation into the killings. Whether or not this official acknowledgment of the killings leads to an official process of truth, justice, and reconciliation anytime soon, the truth is coming out, and a national reckoning is underway.

The New York Times, April 17, 2016. "After Long Silence, Indonesia Allows Talk of Anti-Communist"
The New York Times, April 27, 2016. "Indonesia Moves to Investigate Anti-Communist Atrocities"

Some current news stories and policies coming out of Indonesia that American audiences should be aware of:

The Look of Silence's Oscar nomination helped deepen the impact of the films in Indonesia. Where the media had been silent, or even celebrated the 'heroic extermination of the communists', now journalists tenaciously investigate the massacres, and describe them as a crime against humanity that established Indonesia's current system of impunity for human rights abuse, intimidation, and appalling corruption. In this new climate of openness, individuals are less afraid to tell their stories. Indonesians are now speaking out and sharing stories about the 1965 genocide and its legacy. A group of Indonesian historians has created an alternative history curriculum. Initiatives like INGAT 65 are gathering memories and testimony online. Human rights activists and historians held a formal truth commission, the International People's Tribunal 1965.

Around the Oscars -- in February and March of this year -- I traveled to Washington, DC with Indonesia's National Human Rights Commissioner to request that the U.S. release its documents from the period. We met with officials at the White House and State Department, where the National Human Rights Commissioner delivered a letter to President Obama asking him to declassify all CIA and Defense Attaché documents pertaining to the killings. This will help Indonesians better understand and confront their past. It will also help Americans understand their own history and their role on the world stage. Even government bodies are coming forward to address impunity for the genocide.

Joshua Oppenheimer, June 2016

Continuing the effort to increase awareness and attention to the Indonesian Massacre of 1965 in the US since the release of The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence:

The release of my films, The Act of Killing (2013) and The Look of Silence (2015), in Indonesia has stimulated a national discussion about the genocide and the consequences of impunity. According to Indonesian cultural commentator Ayu Ratih, the thousands of screenings across the country have been, for the younger generation, a rite of passage, "an initiation to adulthood which makes them feel more mature, socially and politically."

This younger generation will no longer accept silence and inaction, and recently we have seen mounting public pressure on the government to address impunity. Just this month Indonesian officials convened, for the first time ever, a symposium to examine the killings. Members of President Widodo's cabinet, Indonesia's Attorney General, police chief, and justice minister attended the conference - as did NGO activists, former military leaders, survivors and families of those killed. While it was an unprecedented gathering, it is still only a small step toward ending the lawlessness that began in 1965. Indonesia's movement against impunity has a long struggle ahead.

The Guardian, May 3, 2016. "Why Today's Global Warming Has Roots in Indonesia's Genocidal Past"