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The Look of Silence

Screening: Sunday 22 March 2015, 1400 – 1600, Auditorium 1
Roundtable: Sunday 22 March 2015, 1630 – 1800, Auditorium 1


Through Joshua Oppenheimer’s work filming perpetrators of the Indonesian genocide, a family of survivors discovers how their son was murdered and the identity of the men who killed him. The youngest brother is determined to break the spell of silence and fear under which the survivors live, and so confronts the men responsible for his brother’s murder – something unimaginable in a country where killers remain in power.


Film screening to be followed by a roundtable discussion featuring:

  • Putu Oka Sukanta

Putu Oka Sukanta, born in Bali in 1939, is a writer and editor of fiction and non- fiction. He has written novels, poetry, collections of short-story, books about HIV/AIDS, traditional healing and documentary film maker. His writing has also been published in English, German, and French translation. From 1966 to 1976 Putu was detained without trial because he has an activist with the leftist arts organization LEKRA (People’s Culture Organization). He now lives in Jakarta, where he has an acupuncture practice, works to promote traditional medicine, and is active in program for human writes and the prevention of HIV/AIDS. Putu was often invited overseas to present his writing and ideas. In 2012 he has awarded a Hellman/Hammett grant for commitment to free expression and courage in the face of persecution by Human Rights Watch, New York.

  • Grace Leksana (Indonesian Institute of Social History)

Grace Leksana holds a Bachelor degree of Psychology from Atma Jaya Catholic University, Indonesia and a Master’s degree in Development Studies from Institut of Social Studies, Netherlands. Along with the Indonesian Institute of Social History, she coordinates a program of ‘Reforming History Education’ by building capacity of history teachers and developing biography-based history teaching materials. She is also have a high interest in the 1965 violence issues. Her current based is in Malang and she is now active at the Culture and Frontier Studies, Brawijaya University – Malang. She is author of “Reconciliation through History Education: Reconstructing the Social Memory of the 1965–66 Violence in Indonesia”  in Reconciling Indonesia: Grassroots Agency for Peace (Routledge, 2009).

  • Chair: Prof Peter Carey (University of Oxford)

Dr Peter Carey, who is currently an Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Humanities (Fakultas Ilmu Budaya/FIB) at the University of Indonesia (Universitas Indonesia), is the co-founder of the Cambodia Trust, a UK registered charity with the vision of equal rights for disabled people in an inclusive barrier-free society. He was its initial Project Director and then Research & Development Director for Indonesia (2008-12). Dr Carey was Laithwaite Fellow and Tutor in Modern History at the University of Oxford’s Trinity College from 1979 until his retirement in 2008.


The Act of Killing exposed the consequences for all of us when we build our everyday reality on terror and lies. The Look of Silence explores what it is like to be a survivor in such a reality. Making any film about survivors of genocide is to walk into a minefield of clichés, most of which serve to create a heroic (if not saintly) protagonist with whom we can identify, thereby offering the false reassurance that, in the moral catastrophe of atrocity, we are nothing like perpetrators. But presenting survivors as saintly in order to reassure ourselves that we are good is to use survivors to deceive ourselves. It is an insult to survivors’ experience, and does nothing to help us understand what it means to survive atrocity, what it means to live a life shattered by mass violence, and to be silenced by terror. To navigate this minefield of clichés, we have had to explore silence itself.

The result, The Look of Silence, is, I hope, a poem about a silence borne of terror – a poem about the necessity of breaking that silence, but also about the trauma that comes when silence is broken. Maybe the film is a monument to silence – a reminder that although we want to move on, look away and think of other things, nothing will make whole what has been broken. Nothing will wake the dead. We must stop, acknowledge the lives destroyed, strain to listen to the silence that follows.


Director: Joshua OPPENHEIMER
Producer: Signe Byrge SØRENSEN
Produced by Final Cut for Real
Running time: 98 min (25fsp), 102 min (24fsp)

Year: 2014
Language: Indonesian, Javanese
Countries of production: Denmark, Indonesia, Norway, Finland & UK
Principal Producer: Final Cut for Real, (Denmark)
Co-producers: Anonymous, (Indonesia) Piraya Film, (Norway), Making Movies (Finland) and Spring Films (UK)