What’s Showing Today? Tuesday, September 30
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Note: We realize many of the NYFF films we spotlight may be sold out or otherwise inaccessible to the general public during the festival. See our previous editor’s note for the principles behind our coverage. —JD
While The Act of Killing shocked with its protagonists’ enthusiastic reenactments of their brutal methods of murdering suspected communists during the Indonesian coup of 1965-1966 that brought General Suharto to power, the primary impact of The Look of Silence lies in the amazing fortitude of its central figure, Adi Rukun. Rukun is an optician in the village of Snake River. While doing his house calls, he collects testimonies from his patients, many of whom were dedicated participants in the massacres. Rukun’s brother was one of the estimated million killed, and he doesn’t hide the source of his motivation during the interviews. This distinguishes The Look of Silence from its predecessor, in which director Joshua Oppenheimer—while certainly not pretending to be “impartial” or “objective”—remained largely non-antagonistic toward his subjects. Here, by virtue of his partner’s deep personal involvement, Oppenheimer can no longer appear so ambivalent, causing many of his interviewees to accuse him of communist agitation.
The success of The Look of Silence will have to be measured by the effect it has on the political situation in Indonesia, over which a fearful silence has hung for so long. Rukun’s mother points out that the families of those killed live side by side with the killers in the villages. The old antagonism has to lie dormant because the victims’ relatives and comrades fear the reprisals that reviving it would prompt. When Rukun tells his mother he’s been interviewing some of the killers she warns him, “Be careful. They’ll send thugs to rip you apart.” Some of the interviewees confirm this possibility. The former Secretary General of Komando Aksi (a death squad), now a speaker in the city legislature, becomes agitated by the implications of Rukun’s questions and asks him, “Do the victims’ families want the same thing to happen again?”
Oppenheimer has made The Act of Killing available for free online in Indonesia, hoping to encourage discussions about the country’s political future and to bring this repressed history back into its political consciousness. It may sound like a case of white messianism—as if the Indonesians were inert matter waiting to be activated by an enlightened Euro-American subjectivity—but it’s neither the case that Oppenheimer sees his role this way, nor that the Indonesians have been politically passive for the past half-century. Witness the 1998 riots and student demonstrations that catalyzed Suharto’s resignation, or the Free Aceh Movement, a militant separatist movement in the very region where Rukun and his family live, which started in the 1970s and gathered momentum until 2005 when it was repressed and peace-treatied out of existence.
Since Oppenheimer no longer has full access to any unsuspecting death squad leader of his choice, one wonders what the third installment will be like. As many of his subjects threatened, the purges could be repeated at any moment. If they were, Oppenheimer could end up giving a new meaning to the label ‘committed cinema’—after all, he’s now indisputably a comrade. He made sure to finish shooting The Look of Silence before the release of The Act of Killing, after which he knew he could no longer return safely to Indonesia. “Keep going, continue with this communist activity!” jeers Amir Siahaan, a former commander of Komando Aksi who recognizes the true tenor of Oppenheimer’s films. Is the enigmatic recurring image of the wriggling cocoons a metaphor for the imminent bursting-forth of a renewed Indonesian communist movement? —Cosmo Bjorkenheim
- Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. (Leslie Harris). Details. Harris in attendance for Q&A. 35mm. 1992. 92 min. 8:00 pm.
- Night of the Iguana (John Huston). Details. 35mm. 1964. 125 min. 12:30, 3:00, 5:30 and 8:00 pm.
- Two Shots Fired (Martín Rejtman). Details. DCP. 2014. 105 min. 3:00 pm.
- The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer). Details. Q&A with director Joshua Oppenheimer. DCP. 2014. 99 min. 6:00 pm.
- Hill of Freedom (Hong Sang-soo). Details. DCP. 2014. 66 min. 6:00 pm.
- Non-fiction Diary (Jung Yoon-suk). Details. DCP. 2013. 93 min. 6:00 pm.
- Moana with Sound (Robert Flaherty, Frances Hubbard Flaherty & Monica Flaherty). Details. 2K DCP. 1926/1980. 98 min. 6:15 pm.
- Je t’aime, je t’aime. Details. Introduced by Radley Metzger. 35mm. 1968. 94 min. 4:00 and 7:30 pm.
- The Day Is Longer than the Night (Lana Gogoberidze). Details. 1984. 105 min. 4:00 pm.
- The Machine which Makes Everything Disappear (Tinatin Gurchiani). Details. 2012. 101 min. 4:00 pm.
- The Wishing Tree (Tengiz Abuladze). Details. 1977. 108 min. 7:00 pm.
- Three Lives (Kate Millett). Details. Digital video. 1971. 70 min. 7:30 pm.
- Anna (Pierre Koralnik). Details. Digital video. 1967. 85 min. 10:00 pm.
- Nam June Paik “Becoming Robot” at Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue, Upper East Side. Admission $12 general/$10 seniors/$7 students. Free admission Friday from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. Ends January 4.
- View all exhibitions at Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria, Queens. $12 general/$9 students and seniors/$6 ages 3 to 18. Free admission Friday 4-8 pm. Closed Monday.
- M. Lamar “NEGROGOTHIC, A Manifesto” at Participant Inc, 253 East Houston Street. Open Wednesday-Sunday, noon to 7:00 pm. Closes October 12.
- Donna Conlon & Jonathan Harker “Invisible Hands” at Fridman Gallery, 287 Spring Street. Open Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 6:00 pm. Closes October 23.
- “In Waves: Arp + RO/LU + Paul Clipson” at Jack Hanley Gallery, 327 Broome Street. Open Wednesday-Sunday, 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. Closes October 5.
- Adam Shecter “New Year” at Eleven Rivington, 195 Chrystie Street. Open Wednesday-Sunday, noon to 6:00 pm. Closes October 5.
- Frank Heath “Backup” at Simone Subal Gallery, 131 Bowery, Second Floor. Open Wednesday-Sunday, noon to 6:00 pm. Closes October 26.
- Cory Arcangel “tl;dr” at Team Gallery, 47 Wooster Street. Open Wednesday-Sunday, 10:00 am (noon Sunday) to 6:00 pm. Closes October 26.
- Harun Farocki “Parallel” Greene Naftali, 508 West 26 Street, 8th Floor. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Closes October 4.
- Dan Graham “Design for Showing Rock Videos” at Greene Naftali, 508 West 26 Street, Ground Floor. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Closes October 4.
- Slide Slide Slide at Microscope Gallery, 1329 Willoughby Avenue, Bushwick. Work by Lary 7, Bradley Eros, Sandra Gibson & Luis Recoder, Barbara Hammer, Jeanne Liotta, Bruno Munari, Luther Price, Joel Schlemowitz, and Michael Snow. Open Thursday-Monday, 1:00 to 6:00 pm. Closes October 6.
- Ragnar Kjartansson “A Lot of Sorrow” at Luhring Augustine Bushwick, 25 Knickerbocker Avenue. Open Thursday-Sunday, 11:30 am to 6:00 pm. Closes December 21.