Indonesia massacre filmmaker has no time for feel-good films

Thu Aug 28, 2014 4:53pm EDT
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By Mike Davidson

VENICE (Reuters) - Joshua Oppenheimer, whose film about a 1960s massacre in Indonesia has caused a sensation at the Venice Film Festival, says he has no time for human rights documentaries that suggest everything will turn out fine.

"The Look of Silence", premiered on Wednesday and a strong contender for the festival's main Golden Lion prize next week, is a follow-on from the Texas-born filmmaker's 2012 film "The Act of Killing", which was nominated for an Oscar award.

Both deal with the aftermath of Indonesia's ailed communist coup in 1965, after which death squads killed at least 500,000 people in a purge of communists and alleged sympathizers.

Oppenheimer's first film focused on Anwar Congo, one of the most feared death squad leaders in the area around the city of Medan in Sumatra. He bragged on camera about how he choked people to death with steel wire twisted around the neck.

The second film focuses on Adi Rukun, an optometrist in his 40s, who gradually learns from Oppenheimer about how his brother Ramli was killed in the purge and who eventually confronts the family of his brother's killers.

Oppenheimer said he feels his two films are helping Indonesia move toward a future when the wounds of the purge can be healed, but he does not want to suggest all will be well in the near term.

“I have no patience with conventional standard human rights documentaries that want to gloss over the mess to show us that everything will be okay," he told Reuters on Thursday.

"I want to say, 'Look at the mess' because that’s why these things must be addressed.   Continued...

Director Joshua Oppenheimer poses during the photocall for his movie "The Look of Silence" at the 71st Venice Film Festival August 28, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile