Adi Rukun, the optometrist subject of Joshua Oppenheimer’s Oscar®-nominated documentary THE LOOK OF SILENCE, has released his first written statement about the Indonesian genocide of 1965, following meetings in Washington D.C with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and State Department staff.
Rukun and Oppenheimer met to urge the United States and the Indonesian government to fully acknowledge their role in the genocide. They asked the United States to declassify all documents pertaining to its role in the genocide, and urged the Indonesian government to initiate a process of truth, reconciliation and justice. These meetings were set up by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which held a screening of THE LOOK OF SILENCE to which State Department and Congressional staff were invited.
Rukun never knew his brother Ramli, whose murder at the hands of Indonesian death squads in 1965 plays a pivotal role in Oppenheimer’s 2013 Oscar®-nominated documentary THE ACT OF KILLING. Rukun was a trusted collaborator of Oppenheimer’s while he shot footage for THE ACT OF KILLING, and through viewing this footage, came to discover how his brother Ramli had been murdered, as well as the identities of his killers. Changed by what he had learned, Rukun wanted to meet these men and confront them with the atrocities that they had committed, and ask them to accept responsibility for what they had done. Oppenheimer initially refused, feeling it was too dangerous, as there had never been a nonfiction film where survivors confront perpetrators still in power. He also felt it was unlikely that they would get the apology for which Adi was hoping. Eventually, they decided that by documenting the perpetrators inability to apologize, they could create a film that they hoped would instill in anyone seeing it the need for truth, reconciliation and social justice. That film became the companion piece to THE ACT OF KILLING that Oppenheimer had always conceived, THE LOOK OF SILENCE, which initiates and bears witness to the collapse of fifty years of fear and silence in which a whole society and its people lived.
Adi continues to give voice to the victims of the genocide in his statement below:
Statement from Adi Rukun:
As an optometrist, I spend my days helping people to see better. I hope to do the same thing through this film. I hope to help many people see more clearly what happened during the 1965 Indonesian genocide – a crime often lied about, or buried in silence. We, the families of the victims, have been stigmatized. We have been called “secret communists,” a “latent danger haunting society,” a spectre to be feared, a pestilence to be exterminated. We are none of those things.
I decided to make this film with Joshua because I knew it would make a difference – not only for my own family, but also, I hope, for millions of other victims’ families across Indonesia. I even hoped it would be meaningful to people around the world.
I wanted my image to be photographed, and my voice recorded, because images and sounds are harder to fabricate than text. Also, it would be impossible for me to meet every possible viewer, one by one, but images of me can reach people wherever they are. Even long after I’m gone.
I knew the risks I might face, and I thought about them deeply. I took these risks not because I am brave, but because I have been living in fear for too long. I do not want my children or, one day, my grandchildren to inherit this fear from me and my family.
Unlike the perpetrators, I do not ask that my older brother, my parents, or the millions of victims be treated as heroes, even though some deserve to be.
I just want my family to no longer be described as traitors in the school books. We never committed any crime. And yet my relatives and millions of others were tortured, disappeared, or slaughtered in 1965.
When I visited the perpetrators for the film, I had no desire for revenge. I came to listen. I hoped they would look into my eyes, realize that I am a human being, and acknowledge what they did was wrong. It was up to them to take responsibility for what they did to my family. It was up to them to ask forgiveness. If, instead, they choose to justify their crimes, adding to the noisy lies, we as a nation, living together in this same land, will have difficulty living together as neighbors in peace and in harmony.
Through The Look of Silence, I only wanted to show that we know what the perpetrators did. We know the truth behind their lies. And one day, the lies will be exposed.
Because we are no longer silent.
– Adi Rukun