The Look of Silence: A Film That Challenges America To Apologize For Indonesian Genocide


The 1965 genocide in Indonesia, which left over one million innocent people dead, rank as one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century, along with the Soviet purges of the 1930s, the Nazi mass murders during the Second World War, and the Maoist bloodbath of the early 1950s.

The United States was actively involved in the mass killings as it provided the Indonesian army with financial, military and intelligence support to thwart the anti-communist purge and eliminate the Indonesian Communist Party as a political force. Even as October 1, 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the genocide, the US government hasn’t acknowledged its role in the massacre and has refused to release CIA, military and other governmental records related to the mass killings.

Through The Look of Silence, director Joshua Oppenheimer, who examined the ways Indonesians have incorporated the mass murder into their national mythology in the Oscar-nominated 2013 documentary The Act of Killing, tries to shake the public so they notice that the perpetrators are still at large and are living peacefully among the families of those they murdered.


The film is about Adi Rukun, an eye doctor in his 40s, who has spent his whole life living in the shadow of his brother Ramli, who was murdered by the Komando Aksi, a paramilitary organization in Aceh, in 1965. Adi asks a lot of questions like how can he raise his children in a society where survivors are terrorized into silence, and everybody is terrorized into treating the murderers as heroes? He discovers how his brother was murdered and the identity of the men who murdered him. He comes to know that the killers live nearby and that they have been in power ever since the genocide. The film follows Adi as he attempts to confront the murderers in search of his answers.

He steps into their homes, tells them how much pain they had caused him, asks them straight questions like their thoughts on the genocide and how does it feel to live next to the victims, before asking for an apology. The killers, who are still in power and prodding them could be dangerous, respond with fear, anger, and threats.


While The Act of Killing included interviews with individuals who had participated in the mass killings, The Look of Silence follows one grieving family trying to understand why it happened and exposes how those behind the Indonesian genocide still revel in their crimes 50 years on, including boasting on camera how they dismembered, eviscerated, castrated and beheaded alleged communists.

If The Act of Killing was about how a nation acknowledges its own worst moments, then The Look of Silence is about how a nation can possibly heal after those dark chapters. If The Act of Killing was informative, then The Look of Silence is gut-wrenching.

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  1. Yep…and who is on the poop list now, as we the people who are conspiracy theorists, are now being put on the poop list. We are like the new communists/ enemy of the state.


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