The Jakarta Post
It will be hard to prevent people from watching Joshua Oppenheimer's second groundbreaking documentary on the 1965 Indonesian communist purge, The Look of Silence (Indonesian title: Senyap), because the film is available for online viewing and downloading as of Thursday.
Oppenheimer, the film's director and producer in cooperation with Final Cut for Real, VHX and Drafthouse, said the documentary was a present to the Indonesian audience.
'As a present, the film should be given for free to the Indonesian audience,' he said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post.
The documentary can be downloaded at thelookofsilence.vhx.tv or watched on Youtube at youtube.com/watch?v=RcvH2hvvGh4.
The film is the American filmmaker's further exploration into the 1965 massacre that is estimated to have claimed the lives of more than 500,000 people thought to be members or supporters of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). In 2012, he released The Act of Killing (Indonesian title: Jagal).
The new documentary follows a middle-aged optician Adi Rukun, who confronted the men that brutally murdered his brother during the communist purge. The film made it onto the Oscar Documentary shortlist for 2016.
Since being released in Indonesia in November last year, The Look of Silence, similar to its predecessor, The Act of Killing, has sparked controversy across the country.
In December 2014, the Film Censorship Institute (LSF) banned the public screening of Senyap, reasoning that it 'leads the viewers to sympathize with the PKI and communism'.
A month later, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) issued a letter in support of Senyap, calling it one of many films that unfolded the gross human rights abuse 'from the victims' perspective'.
In December last year, hardline groups intimidated the film screening held at Gajah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta.
And this year, authorities clamped down on Senyap screenings held at campuses and other places, including the planned screening at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) in Bali.
The pressure has failed to dampen the spirit of student organizations and communities to spread the documentary.
Indonesia Menonton Senyap (Indonesia Watching Senyap), an initiative to facilitate public screenings, has distributed 1,700 DVD copies of Senyap for screening in 118 cities and regencies across the archipelago, estimated to reach 70,000 viewers in total.
Oppenheimer expressed his hope that Senyap could reach a greater audience than Jagal, which has been watched and downloaded for more than 1 million times since being made available online in September last year. Senyap is expected to open discussions and propel reconciliation in Indonesia.
Komnas HAM commissioner Muhammad Nurkhoiron said the film's availability online proved that the authorities could not shackle people's desire to know more about the tragedy.
'We have a problem where the decision makers, particularly the government, nurture fear. The more they spread fear and issue bans, the more youth will grow curious and use their creativity to learn about the tragedy,' he told the Post on Thursday.
The film was also screened on Thursday and free digital copies were offered at an event at the Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural center in Central Jakarta called the Temporary Museum of Memory
'We invite those who are interested [to have the film] to bring their flash disks, so that we can give them the film files,' event committee member Qory said.
'We don't seek the approval from the authorities for the event as we believe we don't need permission to spread knowledge.'
Initiated by Komnas HAM, Partisipasi Indonesia and the Jakarta Arts Council (DKJ), the event hosted discussions and film screenings related to the 1965 massacre to mark the 50th anniversary of the tragedy and also Human Rights Day, which falls on Thursday. The event ran from Nov. 30 until Thursday.
The Jakarta Police issued a letter pressuring DKJ to cancel a discussion on the 1965 tragedy amid protests from another group of artists. DKJ Irawan Karseno responded to the ban by holding a press conference on Tuesday, in which he criticized the police's decision to bow to the opposing group's pressure.
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