The Look of Silence
November 24th, 2015

The Look of Silence [2015]

Please join us for a one-night screening event of Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence [2015], the Buffalo debut of the lauded companion to his documentary The Act of Killing.

  • Screening Date: Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 | 9:30pm
  • Venue: North Park Theatre
  • Specifications: 2015 / 103 minutes / Indonesian with English subtitles / Color
  • Director(s): Joshua Oppenheimer
  • Print: Supplied by Drafthouse Films
  • Tickets: $8.00 online; $7.00 at the door
  • Deal: Discounted drinks available after the screening at Més Que with your ticket

Event Sponsors:

Venue Information:

1428 Hertel Ave, Buffalo, NY 14216

TrailerSynopsisDirector NotesLinks

Courtesy of Drafthouse Films:

Through Joshua Oppenheimer’s work filming perpetrators of the Indonesian genocide, a family of survivors discovers how their son was murdered – and the identity of the men who murdered him.
The Look of Silence is Joshua Oppenheimer’s powerful companion piece to the Oscar®-nominated The Act Of Killing. Through Oppenheimer’s footage of perpetrators of the 1965 Indonesian genocide, a family of survivors discovers how their son was murdered, as well as the identities of the killers. The documentary focuses on the youngest son, an optometrist named Adi, who decides to break the suffocating spell of submission and terror by doing something unimaginable in a society where the murderers remain in power: he confronts the men who killed his brother and, while testing their eyesight, asks them to accept responsibility for their actions. This unprecedented film initiates and bears witness to the collapse of fifty years of silence.


  • Venice Film Festival – 2014 – Winner: Best Euro-Mediterranean Film, Winner: FIPRESCI Prize, Winner: Golden Mouse, Winner: Grand Special Jury Prize & Winner: Human Rights Film Network Award
  • Berlin International Film Festival – 2015 – Winner: Peace Film Award
  • SXSW Film Festival – 2015 – Winner: Festival Favorites (Audience Award)
  • Academy Awards – 2016 – Nominee: Best Documentary, Feature
  • Independent Spirit Awards – 2016 – Winner: Best Documentary
  • Village Voice Film Poll – 2015 – Winner: Best Documentary

“The fundamental difference that people fail to take into account is that non-fiction filmmakers ultimately have undeserved inferiority complexes when only fiction filmmakers are described as “storytellers”, even though we are telling stories from real life. To say that is to somehow overlook what is really special about non-fiction, as we are watching real people and going through things that are changing their lives and I think there is something sacred about that material that is created.”

Courtesy of the film’s website:

The Act of Killing exposed the consequences for all of us when we build our everyday reality on terror and lies. The Look of Silence explores what it is like to be a survivor in such a reality. Making any film about survivors of genocide is to walk into a minefield of clichés, most of which serve to create a heroic (if not saintly) protagonist with whom we can identify, thereby offering the false reassurance that, in the moral catastrophe of atrocity, we are nothing like perpetrators. But presenting survivors as saintly in order to reassure ourselves that we are good is to use survivors to deceive ourselves. It is an insult to survivors’ experience, and does nothing to help us understand what it means to survive atrocity, what it means to live a life shattered by mass violence, and to be silenced by terror. To navigate this minefield of clichés, we have had to explore silence itself.

The result, The Look of Silence, is, I hope, a poem about a silence borne of terror – a poem about the necessity of breaking that silence, but also about the trauma that comes when silence is broken. Maybe the film is a monument to silence – a reminder that although we want to move on, look away and think of other things, nothing will make whole what has been broken. Nothing will wake the dead. We must stop, acknowledge the lives destroyed, strain to listen to the silence that follows.


Photo by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung


  • The Look of Silence (2014)
  • The Act of Killing (2012)
  • The Globalisation Tapes (2003)
  • The Entire History of the Louisiana Purchase (1998)

Here is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:

  • 11/3/15 – “One recalls Claude Lanzmann’s approach in Shoah (1985), which eschewed archival footage of concentration camp horrors, allowing long shots of the grounds bearing little trace of their existence to resonate within both participants and viewers. Just as Lanzmann used that erasure to imply the unrepresentability of the crimes of the Holocaust, the silent looks and absences of Oppenheimer’s movie conjure disturbing images of what we don’t see and invite anxious meditations on the ugliest aspects of human nature.” Tony Pipolo, Artforumlink
  • 11/6/15 – “Like its predecessor, it’s a devastatingly beautiful film about the power of cinema, and its ability to testify to some aspect of human nature with a veracity and elegance that escapes other mediums. Every scene weighs on the audience. But Oppenheimer and Adi manage to locate a lightness as well that lessens the burden.” Lenika Cruz, The Atlanticlink
  • 11/6/15 – After having been selected for DOC NYC’s Oscar predicting short list a few weeks back, Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence was nominated this week for Best Feature in the 31st annual International Documentary Association Awards! – link
  • 11/7/15 – “The film’s seeming gentleness is offered as a striking counterpoint to the urgency of its content and its very concrete import for Adi, whose manifest bravery is quite awe-inspiring.” Jonathan Romney, Film Commentlink
  • 11/8/15 – At Sight & Sound, filmmaker and film critic Robert Greene discusses two of the greatest doc filmmakers currently working: Joshua Oppenheimer & Adam Curtis – link
  • 11/10/15 – “Listening to Oppenheimer speak was, in its own way, nearly as overwhelming an experience as watching his films. He’s light-years ahead ahead of most of his fellow filmmakers, to say nothing of most people writing on the subject, in his understanding of the nature and purpose of nonfiction film, the inaccessibility of the historical past, and the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of conventional human-rights documentaries.” Sam Adams, indieWIRElink
  • 11/15/15 – Yesterday, Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence screened as part of DOC NYC’s Oscar predicting Short List. Here’s the immensely insightful post-screening Q&A with the filmmaker – link
  • 11/19/15 – “Director Joshua Oppenheimer describes how his Oscar-nominated The Act of Killing led to a follow-up, and a sea change in Indonesian history.” David Ehrlich, Vanity Fairlink
  • 11/22/15 – “This is a portrait of the human body at degree zero, human politics at degree zero, human guilt at degree zero.” Joshua Oppenheimer on The Look of Silence, The Vergelink
  • 11/25/15 – Human Rights Watch is sponsoring a petition that would pressure the U.S. Senate to acknowledge the 1965-66 mass killings and support peace in Indonesia. Sign up at the link if you feel inclined. – link
  • 11/26/15 – “Among the docs, Joshua Oppenheimer’s sequel to The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence continues to be the one film that ALWAYS gets mentioned” Anne Thompson, indieWIRElink
  • 11/29/15 – “An incredible, jaw-dropping 2015 moment: The Look of Silence. What I appreciate more than anything in a given year are these moments when a filmmaker and reality seem to conspire to blow me away. Joshua Oppenheimer did plenty to knock our socks off with The Act of Killing, but in this follow-up film, he is able to transcend the medium in a more subtle way. In this story of the Indonesian genocide, when a perpetrator’s daughter turns to one of the victims and says that she recognizes him, it struck me to the core, recalling a moment in Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find. It was, for me, a moment of ecstatic truth.” Tom Roston, POV Blog – link
  • 12/06/15 – Congrats to Cultivate Cinema Circle alum The Look of Silence on winning Best Documentary Feature of 2015 at the 31st Annual International Documentary Association Awards! – link
  • 12/06/15 – “A Plea to Moviegoers: See The Look of Silence for Documentary Filmmaking at Its Most Harrowing and Heroic” by Matthew Eng – link
  • 12/14/15 – The Online Film Critics Society, which Cultivate Cinema Circle programmers Jordan M. Smith and Jared Mobarak are both members of, have named Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence the Best Documentary of 2015! – link
  • 12/26/15 – Nonfics lists Cultivate Cinema Circle alums The Look of Silence and Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck among the year’s best documentaries! – link
  • 1/8/16 – Artvoice‘s Jordan Canahai has named his Top 10 films of 2015, including two Cultivate Cinema Circle alums among the ranks: HARD TO BE A GOD & THE LOOK OF SILENCE! – link
  • Local Media Coverage:
    11/18/15 – M. Faust review printed in The Publiclink
    11/19/15 – Jordan Canahai review printed in Artvoicelink
    11/20/15 – Christopher Schobert offers his thoughts on – link
    11/24/15 – Jordan Canahai interviews Joshua Oppenheimer online at Artvoice‘s website – link

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