The Power of Action and Silence in Joshua Oppenheimer’s the Act of Killing and the Look of Silence


Film as one powerful media to penetrate political and cultural barriers is evident in two Joshua Oppenheimer’s films on Indonesian 1996-7 genocide, The Act of Killing (2012) and The Look of Silence (2014). This paper explores how the films evoke controversy and generate power to raise contemporary Indonesian society’s awareness regarding the historical trauma. Furthermore, the exploration expands to questions on humanity: what it means to be a human in a condition in which the victims live in silence and fear while the killers have impunity and see themselves as heroes? The Act of Killing focuses on triumphant “butchers” of thousands of accused communist and on the society that emerged from that genocide. The Look of Silence amplifies the silent and fearful lives of the survivors and relatives to the victims. The findings show that the films’ narrative and visualization manage to reveal the wounds of the nation and the damaging consequences of the unreconciled trauma.

Author Information
Anton Sutandio, Maranatha Christian University, Indonesia

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2015
Stream: Humanities - Media

This paper is part of the ACAH2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon