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The Silencing of Silence

The Act of Killing‘ and ‘The Look of Silence‘ are two award-winning films by Joshua Oppenheimer which highlight the 1965-1966 anti-communist massacre that took an estimated half a million innocent lives.

In Indonesia, ‘Silence’ has been screened in 457 locations from Aceh in the West to Papua in the far East. 160 of them were public screenings in cities including Banda Aceh, Padang, Pekanbaru, Medan, Palembang, Lampung, Jakarta, Bekasi, Bandung, Cianjur, Yogyakarta, Purwokerto, Solo, Semarang, Kediri, Malang, Jember, Makassar, Palu, Manado, Pontianak, Balikpapan, Samarinda, Jayapura, and Wamena.

But in some locations and cities, screenings were reportedly disrupted and even stopped by military personnel and their civilian paramilitary organization.

In Semarang, Central Java, the organizer of the screening, Kolektif Hysteria, was intimidated by military personnel who also provoked local residents to attack the collective’s space. The organizer then moved the screening to another location to avoid further provocation.

In Malang, East Java, students from Brawijaya University who were hosting the screening had to cancel the event when military personnel violently entered the venue and forcefully pushed people out of the location.

Also in Malang, a screening at Warung Kelir turned sour when in the middle of the film, an unidentified person began to terrorize the attendees. Locals and nearby residents then came to stop the event.

To mark Human Rights Day on 10 December, we collaborated with local partners to screen ‘Silence’ in Yogyakarta. The event went on without any disruption. Community screenings will continue to happen across Indonesia in December, with activists pushing for the new president Joko Widodo to see the film.