Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Look of Silence (2014)

In the first part of his documentary on the events after G30S/PKI in 1965, director Joshua Oppenheimer interviewed some of the men who did the killings. This movie is the second part of the documentary and the director put a relative of one of the murdered victims to interview the 'killers'.

I think the intention of making this documentary was to find out what really happened. What I learned at school (late 70's - early 90's) was how cruel the PKI had been (PKI = Indonesia Communist Party) and how the army under General Soeharto's leadership could sweep the movement quickly. From my aunt I heard the stories after the event, that so many people had died because 'communists' had had to be killed. She told me how her uncle had been taken to be tortured and killed. They lived in Solo at that time.

This documentary was about the massacre in Sungai Ular (Snake River), Deli Serdang, North Sumatra. A 44 year-old man named Adi was in search of what really had happened to his brother Ramli.

By sending a victim's brother to interview the doers, to ask them what had happened and then sort of accuse them, ask them questions like 'Do you regret what you have done?' and 'Have you realized that you were wrong?' - of course they became angry and stopped the interview. I prefer the director's approach in making The Act of Killing (the first part of the documentary), where he asked them politely to reveal what had happened and not accused them and blamed them, for this was a sensitive issue.

In the last part of this movie, Adi went to this family to interview them. The father of the family, who had passed away, told Joshua several years ago about how he led the massacre. He also had written a book about it - complete with illustrations, titled 'Embun Berdarah' and gave a copy to Joshua. His wife and sons claimed that they knew nothing about what their father did at that time and did not want to talk about it. What happened to Ramli was told in that book. There were so many victims, the number given was around 500-600 but the father of the family could gave a detailed account of what had happened to this particular victim.

Adi was born in 1968 so he never saw his brother. Perhaps he grew up listening his mother's stories about what had happened when Ramli had being taken away. We can see when he interviewed the doers how he was emotionally bitter.

There was a scene of a school-teacher taught his young pupils about the G30S/PKI history. Seeing the pictures of the president and vice-president hanging on the wall, this scene was recent. They were the pictures of SBY and Boediono (2009-2014).The teacher told the pupils how cruel the PKI was. They had kidnapped the army generals and cut their faces with razor and gouged their eyes out. When I was still at school, my history teachers never mentioned those gory details. The textbooks only also said that they had been tortured. I first learned the details of the tortures when I had to watch this G30S/PKI film made in 1984 by PPFN and later more horrible details in 1988 book 'Siapa Menabur Angin Akan Menuai Badai' (borrowed it from a neighbour). But then I heard that the tortures had never happened. The PKI shot the generals to death but never tortured them. So why this teacher still told the pupils that the army general had been tortured? Whichever was true, those pupils were elementary school kids and they should not be told gory details. Like a censorship for a movie, the teacher should know if the kids can handle such stories. It's useless to blur inappropriate images on TV if you tell sadistic stories to your pupils.

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