Award-winning filmmaker to return to campus, screen new documentary

Rachel Holtzman, Reporter


Two years ago, the Northwestern community overflowed Ryan Auditorium to watch and discuss “The Act of Killing,” a film by Joshua Oppenheimer that explored the 1965 genocide in Indonesia.

On Monday, Oppenheimer, an Academy Award nominee and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, will return to Northwestern to screen his follow-up film, “The Look of Silence,” and hold a question-and-answer session about the making of his film.

The film follows the aftermath of the massacre of one million people by a new military regime in Indonesia in 1965. The 50th anniversary of the massacre, which occurred over the span of four months, is commemorated in 2015.

The film follows the younger brother of a genocide victim as he confronts the men who killed his brother, in a society where people who participated in the genocide still openly brag about the killing.

“There are all these images of breaking the silence and sharpening our sight on this issue for the first time,” said political science Prof. Jeffrey Winters, who specializes in Indonesian politics and is working with Equality Development and Globalization Studies to coordinate the event. “The arc of the story is trying to come to grips with the past and deal with the wounds and pain of the situation.”

EDGS and the other organizations co-sponsoring the screening hope to make people aware of this issue. Many American students may not have ever heard of this massacre in the first place, said Virginia Van Keuren, A&O Productions’ co-marketing and media chair and a former Daily staffer.

“Northwestern has a large international community here…and many people I want a kind of call to action about this,” Van Keuren said. “There’s an overarching concept of genocide reoccurring all over again, whether it’s Indonesia or Syria.”

The film includes a combination of interviews, reenactments and live encounters between people as they struggle to talk about the genocide, 50 years after it took place. Its style allows viewers to look at the crisis through a more individual, yet transformative lens, Winters said.

“The immediate tragedy is something that sort of ends,” Winters said. “But as for the rest of us … I think as democratic citizens, it is incumbent upon us to know not only world history and the struggles people have gone through, but also to know [and expand] our engagement with it.”

Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC) co-president Jeanne Hou said that as her organization and other co-sponsors have publicized the event, they have emphasized the struggle of uncovering lost perspectives on this massacre.

“Whoever’s in charge has the ability to write history and decide what is right and what is wrong,” Hou said. “It’s relevant today … It’s relevant to Asian history and it’s also a real representation of what power and pressure look like.”

The organizers of the program are hoping to reach a large audience with the screening, as EDGS’ 2013 screening of “The Act of Killing” was attended and discussed by many people.

“We didn’t know we were going to fill Tech that night; every seat was filled, and people were standing in the back,” Winters said. “I don’t know why the response was so powerful, but it was really something. There are people still here now who were there that night and who are talking to their friends. We’re planning on having a really packed house.”

At the end of the film, there will be a quick intermission, followed by a question and answer session with Oppenheimer about his choices and experience with making the documentary, Van Keuren said.

The sponsors of the event include EDGS, A&O Productions, APAC, Global Engagement Summit, Inspire Media and the School of Communication MFA in Documentary Media Program

“We wanted to complete what we started with the Northwestern community [two years ago],” Winters said. “People found the evening to be transformative for them, and we believe that this night is going to be just as powerful.”

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