Watching The Look of Silence in Dili
etmnlong.gif (2291 bytes) spacer

Watching The Look of Silence in Dili
by Pam Sexton

Watching The Look of Silence in Dili  
Watching The Look of Silence in Dili. Photo by Zésopol Caminha.  
On August 22, 2015, the first public screening of Joshua Oppenheimer's film The Look of Silence drew around 60 people to the Asosiasaun HAK human rights office in Dili. The documentary probes the impact of the 1965/66 mass killings that brought the dictator Suharto to power in Indonesia and the  impunity which continues to prevail for these and others crimes by Indonesian security forces.

Before the film, award-winning Timorese songwriter Ego Lemos sang Balibo and founders of HAK spoke. The film was followed by reflections and discussion that focused on the critical importance of telling stories, challenging silence and impunity, and nurturing international solidarity.
Some of the messages from the discussion included:
  • The brutality that happened in 1965 in Indonesia was repeated in Timor-Leste in 1975 and subsequent years. The same anti-communist propaganda fed these crimes against humanity. 
  • The people of Indonesia suffered under Suharto, as the people of Timor did. Instead of speaking about how Indonesia invaded East Timor, we should say instead Suharto and the Indonesian military invaded East Timor.
  • Silencing can happen under a brutal military presence, under a censorship of anything but the official history. There is also self-silencing or the silencing of friends and family because 'we all have our stories.'
  • We need to tell and listen and encourage storytelling; we need the bravery to write history, and to include the perspectives of those with the least power.
  • We must be persistent and be patient and steadfast in our work for truth, justice and human rights and we must build alliances across borders.
Organizers of this event are working to organize a public showing in Dili of the film The Act of Killing, also directed by Joshua Oppenheimer with a largely anonymous crew.

Join ETAN in its call to end 50 years of silence: Sign and share ETAN's petition:

THE LOOK OF SILENCE is Joshua Oppenheimer’s powerful companion piece to the Oscar-nominated The Act of Killing. Through a family that lost their eldest son, the film explores one of the 20th century’s deadliest atrocities, still largely hidden after 50 years—Indonesia’s 1965 army-led purge and killing of as many as one million people. The family discovers years later (from Oppenheimer’s footage) who killed their son and how, and they must confront how privileged, dangerous, and close at hand the killers remain. The younger son, an optometrist named Adi, breaks the half-century of fearful silence with an act the film calls “unimaginable in a society where the murderers remain in power.” While testing the eyesight of the men who killed his brother, Adi confronts them. He challenges them to accept responsibility for their violence. Oppenheimer writes that the film depicts “a silence born of terror,” and “the necessity of breaking that silence, but also … the trauma that comes when that silence is broken."  More information about the film can be found here:


ETAN is "A voice of reason, criticizing the administration's reluctance to address ongoing human rights violations and escalating oppression in West Papua and against religious minorities throughout Indonesia."

Noam Chomsky

Donate Today!





Donate to ETAN!

Become an ETAN Sustainer, make a pledge via credit card here

Bookmark and Share

Background | Take Action | News | Links | What You Can Do | Resources  | Contact

ETAN Store | Estafeta | ImagesHome | Timor Postings | Search | Site Index |

Follow ETAN
Like ETAN on Facebook Follow ETAN on Twitter ETAN on Google+ ETAN email listservs ETAN blog ETAN on LinkedIn ETAN on Pinterest ETAN on Instagram Donate to ETAN!