The Act Of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary about Indonesian death-squad leaders, is a punch to the gut. It’s also controversial: Some critics have argued that Oppenheimer’s focus on gangster/mass murderer Anwar Congo silences survivors by emphasizing the perpetrators’ experiences, reinforcing the victims’ continued lack of agency.
But, as we previously reported, Oppenheimer’s subject is actually a two-part project, and The Look Of Silence tells the other half of the story. In the new film, Oppenheimer revisits the Indonesian massacre, shifting the focus of the narrative to a family confronting their son’s murderers. But that doesn’t mean it will be any more satisfying than its predecessor, as Oppenheimer has stated his aversion to painting a virtuous, clichéd portrait of the embittered survivors. “Presenting survivors as saintly in order to reassure ourselves that we are good is to use survivors to deceive ourselves,” Oppenheimer says in a statement. “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.”
The Look Of Silence is coming to select U.S. theaters on July 17th.