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Posts Tagged ‘Joshua Oppenheimer’

look-of-silence“THE LOOK OF SILENCE” My rating: B+ 

103 minutes| MPAA rating: PG-13

An old man laughingly recalls strangling and eviscerating a bound captive — allegedly a communist — during the Indonesian genocide of 1965.

He’s talks proudly of being part of the death squads that, in the wake of a military coup, slaughtered nearly 1 million Indonesians — many of them his own neighbors — in less than a year. He claims the victims were all reds, but in fact there were relatively few communists. Most of the victims were unionists, intellectuals and farmers.

In 2013 documentarian Joshua Oppenheimer gave us the Oscar-nominated “The Art of Killing,” a ghastly yet profound experiment in which he approached former members of the right-wing death squads and gave them the wherewithall to make their own movies re-enacting the slaughter.

Costumes. Props. Fake blood.

“The Look of Silence” is the perfect companion piece, approaching the genocide from the perspective of the victims.

Ali Sumito is an optometrist who goes door to door in his province, testing his patients’ vision and writing prescriptions for eyeglasses.  Ali was born two years after his older brother, Ramli, was murdered by the local death squad.

Now he studies Oppenheimer’s decade-old filmed interviews with the killers, looking for clues to his brother’s fate and trying to understand how such a thing could have happened. He talks  to his aged mother about losing her son.

At age 44 Ali still has a pleasant, youthful countenance.  Undoubtedly that helps him in his business. It also makes him seem inoffensive and non-threatening, allowing him to talk with his older male patients about their histories.

Despite his wife’s warning that asking too many questions might lead to his own disappearance, Ali plunges ahead with his quest.

 

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