This film (2015) is a companion piece and powerful account of the 1960’s genocide in Indonesia, a follow-up to Joshua Oppenheimer’s debut and Oscar-nominated documentary “The Act of Killing” (2012). Less horrific but more emotionally compelling, “The Look of Silence” is a haunting revisiting of the killing fields of Indonesia and the US’s role in the carnage. (The US purportedly promised gifts to those who rid the country of “communist resisters”.) More than a million people were slaughtered.
An Indonesian eyeglass salesman named Adi Runkun is investigating the brutal murder of his brother back in 1965 during the dictatorship’s purge of “communists”. While selling eyeglasses and giving eye exams, Adi discovers the men responsible for the murder. As a metaphor perhaps for “seeing”, the eyeglasses that Adi provides to the murderers still prevent them from comprehending the enormous suffering and ruin that they have inflicted on millions of survivors half a century after.
The scenes are startling and unforgettable, filming family members who have to live in the village alongside the murderers of Adi’s brother and the brutalization of his father. In between investigating the background of the killing fields (=holocaust), Adi and his mother are shown bathing his fragile emaciated father, who was also a victim of the holocaust. “The Look of Silence” is brilliant in focusing on one family’s pain and suffering fifty years later, still reeling from the unthinkable loss, with the killers still in power and exhibiting no regret or remorse.
At times government officials even boast as they revisit the killing fields. Adi forgives them, but the viewer will not be able to forget! “The Look of Silence” is a documentary not to be missed about government’s inhumanity in the name of fighting communism. It is not easy to watch.
Note: Rated PG-13 but definitely NOT for that age group! Available on Netflix as a DVD.