« Making Sense with Sam Harris

#13 — The Moral Gaze

2015-07-21 | 🔗

In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris speaks with the filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer about his remarkable documentaries, "The Act of Killing" and "The Look of Silence."

SUBSCRIBE to listen to the rest of this episode and gain access to all full-length episodes of the podcast at samharris.org/subscribe.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Today, I ll be speaking with Joshua Oppenheimer, a filmmaker who has made two mesmerizing films, the act of killing and the look of silence and you'll hear from this interview. I am quite odd by his achievement. He has managed to me films about genocide that are heroin, as you would expect, but also remarkably beautiful and and his created a kind of moral laser with both of these projects and ages. It focuses the relevant emotions and outrage and compassion in a way that that I have an experience before in film. As I say at the outset of this interview, I consider both of these films masterpieces I highly recommend that you see them. If you haven't, I think you'll be able to enjoy our conversation, whether or not you have seen them, but they should really be a goal to go straight to a movie theatre, to see the look of sound
and to go online, to see the directors cut of the act of killing, which you can see on Netflix but other than that. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Joshua Oppenheimer he's a recent recipient of the Macarthur Quote Genius Award, which, if you ve seen the film say you will recognises richly deserved. So what further. Do I give you Joshua, Oppenheimer, Hey Joshua, hey, don't I'm very good thanks for having me thanks for coming on the Pike ass, it was. Are you re sitting down I'm going to praise you rather Folsom. Leave that to start ass eating I gotta tell you. May you have made Two of the best documentaries I have ever seen amid. I consider both your films, they act of killing and the look of silence just masterpieces. I don't use that word lightly, so it's it's just my pleasure talk to you and I liked it. I know you have the second found the look of Sir
islands coming out today in New York, I know when we're gonna releases podcast, assume will be out and in ITALY, sauce Angeles by the time we do, but damn that's. Why are you you your? I want all about both films emphasising the new one, but it is an amazing accomplishment what you ve done with these films. Well, thank you so much, I'm I'm honored and humbled by your pay by that. Thank you help before we get into the the films themselves. Perhaps you can say a little bit about the relevant history here, because Paul films discuss a genocide that many people don't know anything about, and it follows a history of exploitation by western powers. It really is quite shocking, so can you tell us a little bit about what happened in Indonesia? Sure will Indonesia, with a dutch colony until nineteen, forty, five and sukarno? The first president of Indonesia was charismatic left, leaning, populist. And the founder of the non aligned movement. He was trying to
steer, Indonesia into a space a course of development, there was neither dependent on Soviet Union, nor the west, nor the United States and in the cold war. When countries were under tremendous pressure to take sides entered into themselves was one power, the other, and this of course incurred the wrath of the United States. So In the years from the late fifties. Up until nineteen sixty five, the United States supported, began supporting very intensively the indonesian army. As a kind of opponent of the president of Sukarno and of the broader Eden and left in nineteen sixty five, there was a military coup in which new military dictatorship came to power consent. Solid, dated its rules through the mass murder of anywhere between half a million and three million people in under six months. The victims were any presumed Point of the new regime, so union leaders, progressive politicians, critical journalists, the ethnic Chinese,
is anyone who is in a left, leaning organization, color, the leaders of the indonesian women's movement and all of this was supported and incited and then rewarded. To the tune of ultimately of billions of dollars of aid by the United States. So Indonesia, we have essentially two generations of people who have been living surrounded by the people who murdered their love once it has been no justice that the killers are still in power. That's right more than that's right beyond their having been no justice or the reason there's been no justice is because the per Traders remain in power, and I believe you said another interview that that was like going to Germany, forty years after the Holocaust and finding the Are you still in power and happy to reminisce about how they reduced millions of people to ash yeah think the Nazis would be more ashamed of it,
and the Indonesian, because they knew that the rest of the world was was condemning the holocaust while it was taking place with here. The Venetians new are the perpetrators in Indonesia no and believe that the rest of the world was celebrating their genocide while it was taking place. In fact, I was filming one of the perpetrators. One of them looks right at the camera because I'm behind the camera, therefore, right at me and right at the audience and says I should be rewarded with a cruise to the United did, because it was America that taught me to heat and kill the communists and there's a very inadvertently funny, but just totally so now deranged piece of footage, he supply in the new movie. The look of silence from I think Embassy NEWS, or were NBC News, or even an embassy envy. Especial one hour, long and b C News report produced in nineteen. Sixty seven centrally celebrating the genocide we here
that Indonesia is now more beautiful without the communists, and we hear that good year, major corporations. In order to harvest delay tax that would end up in our tyres, the souls of our shoes and in our contacts with musings play is labor drawn from death camps. When the workers were used up, they were sent back to the camps to be killed, starved or dispatched out to death squads to be killed. This is, of course, essentially with german corporations were doing periphery of outfits Amir twenty years earlier, and the german radio was not actually broadcasting that it too to german citizens. This is actually being reported pretty openly to american citizens, but as something good as good NEWS is as a victory in the struggle for freedom and democracy, something that should be celebrated, something that is
and each give us pause any anyone seeing the film ought to pause and wonder whether the struggle of the so called free world against the key meanest world was the real reason for these four american involvement in these talks Then he so whether that was actually just a pretext for an excuse for the murderous corporate plunder that we see, documented and funny terms in the end be see clip boy. It is a ghastly history, but I am a history aside. In the end, they hurried details, asylum, I'd like to get at what is so unusual about your films, because it either many documentaries on horrible pieces of history. We re there many Holocaust document reason many genocides have been reviewed in film, and this makes for
difficult viewing in every case. But what's so strange about your films? Is that their almost like psychological experiments for it for the audience and for the people on the screen? And I would imagine for you as a filmmaker, because you have created situations that no one is really seen before. I think few people would have thought possible and they have the effect of turning up the volume on our moral emotions, with feelings of outrage and horror at man's inhumanity, a man but you you ve, done this in contexts. That can't contain these emotions at all in the act of killing your first film there's a a campaigners and and near comedy to this movie worthy the main
there's, this amusing dandy, who needle who loves Elvis and John Wayne and he's got this fellow goon sidekick, whose across dresser and I'll get into each film separately, but now talking about both generally in the new filmy, do something very different, but it has the same effect of not being able to contain the emotions. You're driving to the surface contained in the new found. The look of silence there's a formal beauty to it, and I am every all. These shots are so stunning and so tranquil and there's there's a silence
and an attention to aesthetic detail in your framing of everything. But it's like their nuclear bombs, going off beneath the surface and all were seen as the occasional unsettling of a tea cup and the effect is just riveted. That's it s a beautiful description of what I've tried to do it both films. I mean. I tried it, paradoxically, by narrowing my focus until one perpetrator of the men around him. In the act of killing and one survivors, family and the look of silence, I try to create immersive present tense experiences for viewers. I try not to tell a story through exposition which of course keeps us at the distant gives us the same. Remove from that events depicted that a storyteller that a narrator would have about. Instead, I try to immerse you and have you identify with the people involved in the boat,
I see my work as creating occasions creating situations in which the inherent contradictions and horrors come to the surface in a way that feels overwhelming and despite it all taking place within the overall safe space of making a film uncomfortable for everybody involved in the act of killing. You know I'm encountering the truth of boasting bragging perpetrators and I felt the moral truth of this, the kind of sort of transcendent true This here would be if these perpetrators would make it a musical, and so I invite them to dramatize what they ve done in whatever ways they wish in order to me visible. There lies the stories, the fantasies that allow that delivered themselves. The persona the contradictory persona They inhabit that allow them to live with themselves, and then this is something you really see in me:
longer international version of the film the version of the act of killing the came out outside the United States, but is now actually when the? U s too, as the directors cut a netflix, it's the act of killing directors cut, but its forty minutes longer the word what came out outside the United said? You see this kind of recursive process. Performing of dramatizing and then watching and respond and you see onward, acted up watching his own fantasies dramas, stations Inn in proposing the next one in response and watching and proposing the next one in response, and what I'm told is this kind of fever dream about escapism and guilt, and we are stuck right into it with her car. So I think that what what was happening here as we are first at an end and each time on war, watches the horror of watches his previous dramatization? We can see that he's terribly paid, but, as you put it
very nicely there. Nowhere for those emotions to go except further denial, so he launches into he proposes, proposes he considers to be a kind of of aesthetic improvement as though, if he can fix the scene aesthetically, he can somehow dispel the pain and his past morally, and so one dramatization begets another begets another begets another toward the bargaining through a kind of fever dream of shifting fantasies, and we get this and its about again. The lies and fantasies that make up the killers present and the terrible consequences of those when imposed on the whole society of the corruption, the thuggery and the fear, and in the look in that sense. It is about impunity today, not about the events of the genocide half a century ago which, as you pointed out, there's many documentaries about terrible things in the past
certainly they dont have the same impact, because we know that there have been many terrible episodes of history all over the world. I try to make this about the present and I try to make it universal similarly and a look of silence by focusing on one survivor, who sets out to do so unimaginable something that we have never seen in the history of nonfiction film, namely confronting survivors confronting perpetrators were are, they still hold a monopoly on power. We see another kind of confrontation with Artie oh and shows that he is willing to forgive the man if it can only accept what they ve done, is wrong. They're forced to see him and basics by extension, the brother, his brother, when they murdered and then all of their victims as humans and their there lies. The delusions sought to crumble and you see them frantically scrambling for new lies to because those emotions are impossible. As you,
would examine salmon eight day last to deny they need. They deny responsibility, they get angry, they get defensive and all of this takes place within a space that I've tried to depict with his grace and humanity and even love as possible, so that we can feel tat. The haunted silence in which the family has been the survivors. Families are forced to live and in which this is taking place, and I hope it makes the violence and the anger in there. That tender sort of tinder box, it's a bit the kind of silence of nitric glycerin. I hope it makes up that the beauty and the intimacy makes all of that and more shocking. It certainly does and that those are the level of compassion evinced in in this, especially the second found. The look of silence is really breathtaking. Oddities com
ashen and his apparent willingness to forgive if he can only find someone with a conscience worth forgiving that Sir in his interaction with the killers of his brother is just mesmerizing, and I want stepped back for second onto, and could we just can breathe through the active, kill him and for those who haven't seen, the film is very difficult understand what's going on here. In fact, I think for we, even if you ve, seen it on a first viewing, is very hard to appreciate how strange a document this of you, you inevitably miss some of the imo. In detail in the beginning as you're, trying to figure out yet get your bearings in this world and and and with this project, that you ve created of the musical in which his killers reenact their crimes. So I wanted to talk about is broadly by the two, the devices you used in both films in the act of killing. As you say you,
the killers create a musical kind of a weird hybrid, western cedar, film, Luar SOAP, opera in which they depict the. Air torture and murder of their neighbours and crucially also their feelings about it right right. You know they were these sort of musical numbers often reflect on their emotions about what they ve done, their desperate attempt to glorify it, for example, in the end they play both parts. So there you have killers plain victims to answer their experience and ball signs of it. I often in the sand on it. They don't even change costume incongruously. They play victims in what they were wearing his killers, but it becomes as very strange ritual of almost suggested in an expiation their sins, and then you have them watching this footage and this device as you use and in both movies, where you have both perpetrators and victims, watchin the confessions of perpetrators.
On and on television, and then you film them, while they're watching themselves or others confess to these crimes, and to this this film within a film device in in the act of killing, is what, in my view, makes it really. One of the strangest documents are species as ever produced a hat. Half of my amazement at the film was was not so much that the events themselves that you detect are amazing and and and horrible, but that the sheer fact that your film exists was as amazing as anything within it and how you got these people to collaborate in this way and what they thought they were doing interested it produces this is uncanny feeling of strangeness now and in the look of silence your new film, it a very different film, your trading, the same material you're talking about the same events, but you have a different device here where you were ADI, whose an optician is fitting,
He doesn't do this in every interview, but many interviews with with the killers that they, the interviews, conducted over the course of him, fitting them for eyeglasses, so their ease, testing their vision and then he's using that as a context in which to have this conversation was at, did you just a stumble into that devise. There was this did the film maker and you realize that this was going to produce wonderful footage and a great way in so that you crafted. This is a device or tell that no, of course, the film maker, and I recognise that this would be. The filmmaker me recognised that this would be this power, metaphor for blindness, because I knew he would be testing the eyes of man who would be resistant to seeing. So I knew that- and I knew that specifically the eye test would be this if they wouldn't give us access and uniting the permitted. The perpetrators. Are. These confronting knew me from years earlier, so the access would come from me. I would bring already- and I would say that after all these years, the men who
and in this time I no longer want you to dramatize what you ve done in whatever way you wish, which is what I would have me be asked them to do years earlier, I would remind them that I'd gone on to make a film with some of the most powerful men in the country in which they do just that, so that they and that would, of course, serve to keep us safe. The men. The act of killing had been shot but had not yet come out when we had not yet been seen by anybody had been edited but had not been seen by anybody when we the look of silence I knew once it was seen. I wouldn't be able to return safely to Indonesia, so this was a space where it was. It was a narrow window where we could make this film, and I realized that I was well known for being close for having made this film at the highest ranking perpetrators and the country had believed there for people. Believe, therefore, that we were close, because that no one has seen the act of killing it now, I'm still close with onward Congo, the main character, the thumb, but, of course, the powerful politicians in the act of killing hate me. So I would tell us
minority was visiting my back with this. After all these years, I've got on to make a form of some of the most powerful men in the country. I would need some names. They wouldn't refer that has most powerful men and control neither names, and then I would say at this time to film you and ADI discussing these events. You both have personal relationships to it. You may disagree with each other try to listen to what one another, because of course, I was hoping to find reconciliation with his neighbors, and I told him from the beginning. I dont think you'll find anybody who is able to admit their guilt, because it would be too traumatic for them to do so. But if I can show their pained responses, if I can show how impossible it is intended to civic and document. Why we fail to get the reconciliation you're, hoping for? I will be making visible how torn the social fabric of Indonesia is and how urgently truth. Reconciliation in some form of justice are needed, and in that sense,
for anyone watching the film anywhere in the world, people will be half will be forced to acknowledge the prison of fear in which every Indonesian is living today and therefore forced to support and somehow to support truth, rackets and reconciliation. And I said to already, I think that is why I think, you will fail, but I think that we might succeed in a bigger way through the film as a whole and so like that, like the trauma decisions in the act of killing, I felt that the confrontations in the look of silence would make visible something that it pre an uneasy and impossible to ignore or something that had previously been invisible or deliberately ignored by everybody in Indonesia, and so did I would say five years. I wanted document this taboo, tell the perpetrators. I wanted document your conversation with already tried to list
into one another, and if you can- and I thank you for your time- bodies and optometrist- he will test your eyes and if you need classes and want glasses, will give you as many pairs of classes. As you like, and you see, I realized tat. I tests. In addition to likely producing this kind of powerful metaphor for plight, blindness would also help keep the sea the confrontation safe. Are you you referred to. Them is interviews him but you're or having a conversation morbid, but such it such a conversation would be, could be called an interview. You sort of interviewing me after it from in interviews when you're looking for information and feelings are trying to do something he's trying to reconcile his face. With his neighbors fairly with the two families with his brothers killers, and that's not an interview, that's a confrontation. That's a drug dramatic see and I realize that is for if we could make wherever possible at the first part of this drama is confrontation. Were I test? It would help
keep us safe, because when you're having your eyes tested, you of course disarmed it is down you're not likely to physically attacked somebody, and also, of course it was. It was a context that already could prolong for as long as necessary where he could illicit the stories that the most important data of what the perpetrators had done, all things that they had told me years earlier, but but of course, You were to go to them and say I understand you did this distant. This from Josh was footage. They would feel trapped, ended run. There would be no chance of dialogue, it would be dangerous and confrontational from the outset, so this was the chance for the perpetrators. In a comfortable setting to volunteer what they had done and in a context that setting I'm pregnant ADI could control he could keep it going for as long as necessary. So that was the original impetus for the test. But of course I understood this would likely be this very powerful metaphor, because I knew that
the stories they would tell. I knew there tell these unspeakable details things. I cried out of a Huron Emma's Bosh painting while their eyes are being framed by these redeem the surreal scarlet test lenses, you're you're, an visualized, it hasn't static, beauty to amuse you opened. The film is not mistaken, with a shot of one of the people getting his size tested a bit. So much of this hinges on ADI as a person and just how he shows up for these confrontations, and he is truly remarkable, and here he is there's a level of moral seriousness and gradations of anguish and compassion you get off of him if he's like a one man, truth and Reconciliation Commission. That is a moral force to his very subtle conversations with these people once ear witnessing at you realize you just you haven't seen these kinds of encounters between people really ever
and its it. Some. Its is quite amazing, watching the film, though I beg to worry for his safety- and it seems like he was running- a considerable risk, collaborating with you and this? This comes out his concern about this comes out at various points in the film and I believe in your press materials. You talk about this being mentioned here. That is the first time that this has ever happened, where you have some one confronting perpetrators of of genocide when the when the perpetrators are still in power, and so on, which one eye, what kind of safety precautions did you take and what is the security situation now? Well, we took we knew that we might have to stop the filming and not even perhaps not even release the film throughout the production we for each of the confrontations he would go with no idea so that it would be if we were detained it would be hard for us to be provided for them,
dead. If I who he was before we could get help, hopefully from one of our embassies were already would bring, we would have come. Two cars, so that we would be able to review if we had a runaway or escape it be harder for them to follow us had a kind get away vehicle and we, but he was already would have his family waiting at the airport, ready to evacuate if anything went wrong for all of a confrontation with the more powerful perpetrators. These were safety precautions that we took, but then, when the film is, I think the kept us safe above all was, as I said earlier, first of all that the cover that we had from the fact that I was believed to be close to the highest ranking perpetrators course word could have spread that somebody could have asked. Do you realize what Josh was doing and that could have fallen apart so every night between the confrontations? I would say
with Unwell Congo, which was sort of strings to be shift in between eighty by day and on more by night, but we knew that, if word had spread out, I would be the first to find out just were listen there's onwards, the perpetrator protagonists from your first filmy act at the end of killing, and we and of course that's right and so new that he would tell me- or I would feel that something was amiss if word had spread. Was what would allow us to make the decision with some comfort to shoot the next day we shot the scenes as quickly as possible over the course of their six confrontations. We shot them over sixty as we were putting we were coming up the chain of command, we shot one test, confrontation. In fact, it's the one within the man with the red glasses that we talked about earlier because we knew he had a terrible relationship with his commanders had no one, therefore, to complain to really already does not tell him. You remember, you may remember this somebody does not tell him who he is, and we use that so that article
go to his wife and his mother and his family and say what he's doing we could film their reactions, which you see in the film as well, and you see their apprehension and then we showed them that seen so they could see what it looks like the family then said this is very important. If this way of continuing this, even if it means we have to move. You should try to continue because you're breaking half a century of silence here. I think the other thing that kept us safe was the fact that these men simply could not believe these conversations were happening at all. There's this sense of total discipline they just can't believe the questions that are coming out of his mouth and they dont know how to respond to them. In a way being able to interpret it Eight believer terrorized, someone depends on them being afraid. There is this kind of votes,
Super amazing study of a woman in some way, the MID West, his fear centre in her brain wasn't working and people would come up to hurt a mug her and she would react with no fear and then they would they would run away because they were frightened by her lack of fear, and I think, there's some of that going on. In any case, when we had a rough cut of the film about six months before the world premier, at the Venice film Festival we met, All of us, the film crew, the team that released had already released the act of killing and Indonesia, Artes, family and me, and my producer in Thailand that in Thailand, because we knew I couldn't safely turned to Indonesia anymore. Ever since the act of killing was were these and we asked what should we do? Should we hold this film back until these men are so old, they pose no threat or until there's, real political change in Indonesia, or should we release the film in the family moved to Europe or when the family and the indonesian team saw the film
This has to come out right away. There's so much momentum for change from the first filled, the act of killing that we need to build on that and the families who were willing to move to Europe. If that's what it takes. Crew in Indonesia said. Let us if there's a way, we can keep you in Indonesia. If you would prefer that if you feel comfortable with that, because we think that will be seen as a national hero in this storm comes out. We'll have a central role to play in the movement for truth and reconciliation. In fact, we were able to do that. The family did have to move several thousand kilometers from where we shot For me, that sounded comes from there now out from under the shadow of perpetrators, but still in Indonesia does, of course, nationally powerful perpetrators. We also worry about. They have not threatened daddy. There's the family. Still in Indonesia, the children are in better schools. We see the terrible brainwashing that happens in Indonesia in schools in the Children are in better schools, Oddy has we raise
money Ferralti with the true false film festival, to four to open an optometrists store, a brick and mortar eyeglasses shop and for the kids, go to university. Should they wish to so there's a better future that we're trying to build for the family, but the fact that they and the fact that the family should have to flee like fugitives when there simply trying to create. It took trying interactive, forgive their neighbours is a sign of how far Indonesia still has to go before it becomes truly it more precisely with the rule of law, where the law applies equally to the most powerful as it does to the weakest, and that said, I use now seen by many in Indonesia the national hero and is playing a very central role in the movement for truth and reconciliation there, so it it's there is, but
yet, and yet we do have a plan b for the family to leave the country. Should it at any point become necessary. Girder, I'm happy to hear both of those facts, but I guess I'm a little surprised were confused. Bout the basis for surprise among the Indonesian higher up all the Pope traders knew what they were divulging in their encounters with you and involve films and there's evidence, certainly in the act of killing that this history of genocide is openly, celebrated. There's one scene where you have a you, have them on what looks like a local talk show. Maybe it's a national talk, show as a young woman, interviewing onward, Congo and and the others about their murder of of communists and even claim that they killed two point: five million communists and the high end of the spectrum? I think it's more often said that a million people died.
Their celebrating this on television and there's lots of laughter, and this just there's absolutely no moral qualm about what happened. So then, what is it that is in fact, what the national dialogue is around the disappearance? over a million people, and all these people knew what they were telling you and they were brag in about having participated in this, what is then the basis for out rage once you're films come out? I think this is an official history which doesn't refer to the genocide that talks about the hers,
with extra emanation of the Indonesian Communist Party in in those terms and nothing more specific, there is generally silence, or there was until the act of killing came out. This is all changed since the act of killing came out. It was generally silence from the indonesian media, with very few exceptions about the genocide. Then there's a shadow state of paramilitaries, the military military intelligence that would sort of unofficially boast about what happened, and I think, the boasting sir, as a threat, and I think that talk show is actually not national, its indonesian state television, but it's the regional studios or not, agent of Indonesia is captured more or less politically by the gangsters by the perpetrators by the thugs by the shadow state and all of the audience and not on that show that laughing are in the orange camouflage
of the pyramid at one of the leading paramilitary groups that committed the crime. So I think that show functions and is produced with which we are celebrating the production of the act of killing before anyone seen it functions kind of as part of his kind of a rare moment where this kind of posting of the perpetrators that the discourse of the shadows state has been elevated to the discord to two hundred and twenty two broken really to the public eye. Its functions as a threat. I mean the boasting of the primitive you imagine that if the Nazis at one, the ongoing third rife might tolerate the aging s officers going back to their communities and boasting about what they done, because of course, on the one hand, it helps says, as s officers live with what they ve done. Its aware dispelling deal
I think that anger, but we may become tat, I met a little more later and its also, it also serves to keep everybody afraid. They become sort of feared proxies of the state, the leading us S, officers who enter their communities and boast about unspeakable things, and I think that that's what's happening on that talk show. I think that many of the high ranking politicians who participated in the act of killing first of all, our work were recruited by Anwar, not by me, and they perhaps thought I believe thought that they were. They were entering the film that would somehow glorify what they had done. That would give them a page in the official history where is normally they're sort of confined to this unofficial boasting, but I think when they start participating in that when they start articulating their crimes
we hear from many of the men who are more brings into the film, including a minister in the pot in parliament. We hear doubt we heard him say wait this. If we continue with this it'll make us look bad one, minister, who flies out from Jakarta to act in a dark dramatization ever pogrom. A kind of Secure, calls caught and says if we continue with this it'll ruin the image of our paramilitary organization it'll make us look that we should stop many. He actually have second thoughts as will keep this as a kind of warning is exactly this dynamic. I'm talking about about being feared and using. This is a threat. Keep this to show how to terrifying we can be and diesel contrary. Another death squad, maybe the second most important- death perpetrator in the film in one report, goodbye also by onward cause cut at one point during a particular, Harrowing dramatization says: if we succeed in making this film, it will show
everybody in Indonesia. What they ve always suspected to be true, and then he doesn't say this, but I feel in, but we're too afraid to acknowledge and continuing with the quotation, namely that what we did was wrong and all of the propaganda is a lie, and so I think the film has this way by focusing on the posting of the perpetrators. Unofficially tolerated can condoned. Ah, it gives the lie to the whole official history to which the burbage perpetrators are clinging, and I think that speaks to what the posting of the perpetrators really is. I think that every perpetrator, I've film, see this with our on what, but I also think you can see it in the panic of the perpetrators faces when confronted by ADI they're, not afraid of him they're afraid of their not afraid of meat or afraid of their kind they're afraid of what they see in the moral mirror. Bodies. Amazing questions. Every perpetrator, I filmed, I think, lives their lives in a manic flight. From this policy.
The old and shame that follows than everywhere. They go and insinuates itself into their sleep and waking them with terrible nightmares and yet because they ve not been removed from power there. Still have available to themselves is victors history that justifies what they ve done and treated as hurrah and so they do the human thing they try to take these bitter rotten memories and sugar caught them in the sweet language of a victors history that celebrates what they ve done and in that sense we can and what that that, from that, we can understand why they have this wider, always boasting about the most unseeingly details, the most grisly detail. Things me think: how can they be boasting about this? It's not because their monsters- and they don't realize those things- are terrible jacket
those are the most terrible things. Those are the moon, the memories that are most bitter and difficult for them to swallow and in most urgent need of that sugar coding and that somehow, why how I think the act of killing shocks, the politicians and the political establishment by focusing on that boasting it gives the lie to the official history that would gloat that would that would be the basis for the bursting with glee, a fire. By focusing on the posting of these grisly details now onward, Congo was not surprised by the film when he saw he was signed for a very long time. He was tearful and then he said Joshua. This phone shows what it's like to be me. And I'm real- and I asked him, how does that make you feel you, sir? I'm relieved to have finally been able to show that these events have meant Anwar. Of course, is the one person in the film is well, and you see this more in their uncut version of the film the so called directors of the sum as well here my coat
These are. The two people in the film on his hormones are more sites, are more sidekick, he's a to people in the film you see really going, for a journey. They understand with their showing day I'm not surprised by the film, but they are devastated by it. But let us talk any more about that: the attitudes of the killers, because it certainly what most people find mesmerizing about these films, the boastful. This is is really extraordinary. But it seems to me that they're not all the same, and some have obvious regrets- and this is came out- I think more- in the act of killing than in the look of sites but some to my, I really don't seem to have much regret at all and they really seem prepared to kill a guy.
And if they were they were younger man. You would actually fear that that would be a credible threat from them and you you ve just described, and I believe you do it in in the film one of them, where you you view their boastful ness as a kind of stratagem forgetting over their guilt, the guilt that they must feel and and should feel I think there's there some evidence for that, particularly in in Anwar, but some of the other people seem to be much more thuggish characters. A kind of Saddam Hussein types who really just don't seem to feel the gills, wondering if you feel that you encountered a range of of moral scruple in these people, or do you feel that more or less every one was in on Mars spot of really being conflicted over this history. Well, I would say that everyone knows what they ve done is wrong. Somehow and
this meeting to lie to themselves and You know I'm sort of her in agreement with, more levy when he said to me be monsters among us, but there are too few to worry about and the real problem. The real danger is the ordinary people, and I think that it tat you know when I People may be talking about how everyone has nightmares. That may not be true that all other, in fact, one of the other key perpetrator in that of killing artists who country says he doesn't have nightmares. He says he sleeps easily at night. I think that the real issue is that the posting is effective. It dies distance people from what they are talking about when they're talking about it hit the posting evident There is a need to distance themselves from what they thought to dissociate themselves from their own memories, but it also is effective people might they may propose truly be running from Jordan and fear, but they
so always me, maybe ahead of it. I think, with our Anwar that Paul catches up to him, particularly at night it gives in these nightmares, I think other people may live their lives in a sense. We killed off their own conscience so that they can live with what they ve. But I think it's a very rare human being who didn't have a conscience to start with wrote. These films are meditations on evil, essentially and nay. There is a hopeful lesson you draw from this because it the truly evil conscienceless person is the rarity and therefore most to human evil seems to be more situational. Where you have ordinary people capable of evil. Is both a hopeful Anon hopeful message? It's not hopeful and in the sense that ordinary people perpetrate these genocides are. The worst of human behaviour is something that that arises among people just like us, which is to say us very likely in different circumstances, but the hopeful messages
circumstances are easier to change than people right. We can imagine that if we had the right societal norms and the right institutions and the right conversation about how to collaborate with one another, the most grotesque eruptions, if human evil would become less comment, and I think I made absolutely, I would expand on that slightly and say that the wreckage I think that virtually every act of evil in our history has been perpetrated by human beings like ass, its uncomfortable, because it means we might if we lived in other situations, do the same thing. We grew up in any of these perpetrators. Families in nineteen fifties, Indonesia, come nineteen. Sixty five, we might make the same decision. We would hope that we wouldn't, but most of us are very lucky, never to have to find them
out and that's uncomfortable. But if you overcome that, you quickly realized that recognising that all the privilege that every perpetrator is human with very few exceptions and has the shares this in human morality is the only hope for response, because, if there's just monsters among us. Then we either have to surrender ourselves to this kind of thing happening again and again and again in a kind of despair, or we have to isolate the monsters and somehow neutralize them. And then how do we stop ourselves from becoming the monsters, whereas if we can build societies in which we faster the widest simple embassy and will we also foster doubt when we teach children to doubt what authority tells them. So that is more difficult to incite. People to join groups that betray their individual morality. Then we ought to be able to build societies with
kind of an unimaginable violence, truly becomes unimaginable, were becomes impossible, and I think that the other part of this recognition that perpetrate that even the worst perpetrators are human being like us is that you cannot. Even not only can you not divide the human community in the good guys and bad eyes of moral lie, which is repeated in almost all of our journalism and almost all of our even our are our cinema, certainly in our cinema. Ah, but you can't, even divide the human soul in the good parts and bad part there is not angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. I think that if you look at the directors cut of the act of killing the actor killing culminates in this section were on more plays his own victim in the film LAR scenes and in it in the short or cuts to the sun. He starting to feel it
and then he just didn't, as though, in response to that may be a challenge for me. He said that he sat down in the victim's chaired, Astor decides to play the victim, but in the directors cut of the film you actually see how he gets there and its perhaps the most important and harrowing part of the uncut version of the film has been removed from the shorter cuts online. As he starts to feel his own guilt. He despatched realizing that he's not going to be able to escape it, and that is only getting worse were making the sum he does sparingly, embraces it and throws himself in that despair into acting out into into dramatizing the worst of what he was an end, also seeking to distance himself from that horror by playing a kind of fun war her, where, although evil at least he's he's glamorous and that somehow he does that as a
out of a group, along with a growing anger. It's so, but he might by feeling the guilt hurt him that he starting to feel and he feel and who can blame for it, but his own victim, spike as though by killing you I've heard myself killing. You have made me guilty, that's hurt me, so I feel like you're but feel like you're victim. He feels like his victims felt victim and, along with this despairing, embrace of evil comes this growing self pity which he feels like a victim and leads him in it. Visibly to play the victim. I think it's it's would be. It was the admission of the realisation that that section of the act of killing wouldn't fit in the short or cuts is what led. Verna herds are one of the sums to executive producers to the where in right, let me right from the beginning that the uncut version of the film the directors cut of the film the only legitimate version of the film it say if you haven't, he said at the Berlin Film Festival, if you have not seen the directors cut
the act of killing. In my opinion, you haven't seen the act of killing the other, that the whole sequence is amazing made me worry and wonder: whether or not you weren't a little taken in by Anwar, and I get me. Obviously you haven't experience of him this much larger than I do by virtue of seeing the film but he's obviously very charming, but he strikes me as a kind of monstrously vain person, and I am wondering if his guilt and his his expressions of of guilt are just a kind of expression of his vanity there's the scene at the end, where
What were you just touched on where he he marvels at the fact that he went through some of the same emotions? His victims did by playing the role of a victim in his film, and you rightly point out that his victims felt far worse because they were actually being tortured and and knew they were going to die. While he was just making a film and then he he seems to concede that, but when he cries and he gets physically ill and he feels faint and new when he sees contemplate in his crimes. I just got the senses, a viewer that all of these these scruples in this whole drama was just kind of Flickr. At the edge of aid, a moral black hole and he is like he first got to play the sadist by personally, murdering, probably hundreds of people, and now he gets to play the masochistic luxuriating in his guilt and in his confessional attitude. And I felt taken in by him as well or felt Europe sympathetic with him as well. But I there
moments where I worried that his conscience was itself a kind of affectation of an extraordinarily vain per Saunders, I was worried about you and I thank you. I think it's very. I mean I think the answer to that question for me lies in the clarity of my answer to him or when I hope you feel is the clarity of my answer to him when he says now. I feel what my victims feel, and I say no, you don't they were dying in your acting. I dont mean that the emotion, the shock he feels in response to that is only again acting. I can tell you a little bit the story of how he comes to read China Roof. I took him back to that move top of course, the same rooftop that he took me to that meaning of the film five years earlier. In fact, the very first day I met him. I went to see him in his house. He told them. They told him up I dunno, but his role in the nineteen sixty five killings. He said his wife was home, a guest
the easier, maybe to talk about this somewhere else. Perhaps we can even get into the place where its now become a handbag shop where he killed people. I took him back there at the end of this process and asked him to simply walk me through the place and say a word or two about what happened in each room, because knowing The audience would know the key stories from having watched the film, and just wondering what what trace there would be of this. Long journey that he taken in the first time you walk into that chop goes up. The stairs for the ground floor was the first floor. Was the news to say the ground floor.
Second floor, whether everything as it were, the newspaper offices where they were interrogating, people and torturing people in the newspaper publisher would say, kill them. He would bring them up to the roof and kill, kill them and when he first walked me through and points out, the rooms were different stories heap. He opened up about occurred. He was manic, it was like he was completely not present. He was talking with tremendous speed, but he was absent and it was I had this feeling. This is useless because she would someone's talking but not present, it's useless and a film, and I said to him after spending, maybe forty five minutes of that ok on. Why thank you, but now, let's go back to the beginning and just walk through in total silence. I just want you to be with your memories. We did that I took maybe half an hour, and I said, ok now- let's try one third Another time just walked ruins
one word or one sentence about each room. What happened? Don't don't tell me the story and he was doing that and when we reached the roof he physically, arts to rich, and I feel that I actually had that those three. The fact that that's happening on the third take and is is opening. Was somehow were PETE working through layers of resistance. The man who desire the manic fear, he had his own empathy them the way he just before any kind of crack would become so distant and absent from himself for me, made it clear that the retching that happens was despite what it was. Despite himself, he was still repeating the directors color, the film you hear him say my conscience told me they had to be killed, while he's wretched, he's still trying
speak. The lie by his body is rejecting it, and I wanted to put my arm around him in that moment, because I do care for our because obviously what already in the act in a look of silence. In relation to that, I wanted but my arm around him and say it's going to be ok because I saw he I'd, never seen a man wretch so violently and for so long it's not something an actor could could fake and- and yet, as I thought, of the impulses of saying it's going to be okay, the sort of strange american impostor, to be endlessly optimistic. I I know this is what it looks like when it's really not ok, when it really will never be okay, we ve never seen guild, take a sort of printed on a human body? This way before at least not in film, and I I just had to sit back and let that moment unfold. I think also that that, nevertheless going through that taking on more back to that rule,
The sense of occasion, going through three takes in the middle of the night is indeed an occasion through which those feelings can emerge. So it's not like either he's performing and its vague or its spontaneous and its captured is, of course, the film he ate the safe space and it goes back to the beginning of his talk. How I make on fiction from the film created the whole thumbs time and again with each successive drama decision or revisit taken, which is what this vote is creating a safe space in which things out and what I see it. The end is not a man redeemed, not a man, go undergoing catharsis, but a man. Profound be damaged and broken, a man who may have escaped justice, but has not escaped punishment, and even if it is just it, how did you put it? something flickering on the edge of the abyss. A kind of moral black hole in it
is none the less even if it even if his connection with that guilt only happens. There is an even, if he's so superficial, it so vague that he blocks that out from the next morning onwards that hollowness that emptiness that vanity is part of his broken this. It's part of the moral abyss. It's part of the moral right that the film as a whole is witnessing yeah yeah witnesses, It was such clarity and eloquent is really which is why the very last shot in the film is not on in the aftermath of retching, but is Anwar at that giant fish dancing in his delusion, suggesting that you still lost the dancing. Literal also, you know dance it. There's a thunderstorm in the background is at the sight of his big crater lake, which, incidentally, almost led to the extinction of man
kind, seventy five thousand years ago, and that volcano erupted. He is precisely, I think. It's me people dancing and vanity at the edge of the abyss, but it doesn't make the guilt Broken is any less real The vanity is part of that broken why I certainly accept that and if nothing else you you have opened, many windows seemed some some which can be showing seemingly contradictory parts of us, but you they're just so many windows onto the terrible beauty and horror of human nature that an Especial in the look of silence? The act of killing is incredibly surreal and disturbing. The look of silence is in equal measure, a study of compassion and and the possibilities of forgiveness and under the character body is so
I'm mindful of the fact that you were coming up on an hour here, and I just want to close with a couple of questions about what it was like for you to make these films by. Imagine that you view experiences on two levels as a human being, your you were probably horrified by what you were on covering and often scared by its implications. What is a filmmaker? You must have felt that you were getting priceless footage in many of these moments, and I was wondering if this dichotomy ever posed any ethical problems for you, and I don't want to mention one scene in particular that I found very uncomfortable to watch to the scene in the act of killing where One of the actors in this reenactment film confesses that his step father was dragged from their home in the middle of the night and killed when he was a boy. I think he was eleven years old and he tries to put this office, something that doesn't bother him there and then he has to act.
Like a prisoner in the scene that he's shooting with Anwar AL prisoner was about to be tortured and about to be killed and he gives a performance that is just way to convincing them. Either. You guys just happened. It stumble across the best actor on earth or the sky. This was not acting and some I'm wondering how you felt shooting that seen in Seville, It's a very mean found it on one of the most complicated and difficult moments in the film and its it's a unique seen in that
three honour onwards, neighbour, with introduced me into the crew as a leader in the paramilitary groups, carried out the killings and while we were shooting we wish but we're when he confessed, he tells the story of his far step. Fathers, murder. During the lunch break, and we were in his television studio with three units filming- and I was filled me with my colombian eyes. Not cinematography, who doesn't speak, doesn't speak Indonesian with ideas will country in another part of the studio cited here the story of how his father was killed and, if I had, I would have taken him aside. I said you shouldn't be with us. You should work with me the rest of the day behind the camera and please tomorrow say that you're unwell, that you have a cold, that you have a flu and you can't come back because they shouldn't be survivors here, and that was it
the principal, even in the drawer motivations of attacks on out of a massacre on a village people sometimes think it's survivors being me traumatized. No, it's only the perpetrators and their families and the children and the scene haven't been told what the scenes about that. In addition for their ability to cry and the ones who can cry or put near the camera and the ones Giggling are in the background where you can see them and you tell me you can't see their faces. The here are three on all reveals that he's a survivor and then that's right. They cast into play the victim in a drawer in a reenactment redraw modernization of what happened in the office, and he and I saw his tremendous performance where he's crying, and I thought it amazing it had something very authentic to it, but I wasn't sure if it was not just great acting melodrama even and I avoided in the first cuts of that scene. I didn't hear the story until months after we shot that scene at his back in London editing and
was avoiding using any close up to his face, because I didn't feel that horrible reality of what was going on, namely perpetrators, demonstrating using reenactment teach younger members of their own paramilitary groups, how to torture and chill I didn't feel that needed. Melodrama added to it, and so was of waiting showing his expressions and then said the first cut of the scene wasn't there, then I went through all the side conversations justice that were captured by other members of the crew. I just to see if I'd missed anything- and I found it. I came across this this in it that the lunch break. I it wrong earlier. It was, I was filled me with autism cadre and make cinematography was filming the lunch break. It didn't understand what was being said, and then I came across the sea
the lunch break, and I heard all my this is my God. This is a survivor and I had to reassess everything and I felt terrible and I have called his family. I called him actually when we had a rough cut of the sum, try and understand what he was doing in the film his wife answered and any passed away from locations of diabetes six months before my call- and I said why was he in the film is so well- he always wanted to show the horror he felt this was. He felt some of this was the opportunity to show the horror of what had befallen his family, and and and in a way he was right inside you. If you were not the film. The film would have MRS profoundly upsetting moment were the pain of the survivor somehow burst through year, its base, where it shouldn't be-
and even, if there's a shot of on war in that moment, where you can see, even he thinks it is shouldn't, be going on it's what needs are these will country the other death Squad leader to say we shouldn't be making this felt. It will show what we did was wrong in the show: everybody that the propaganda which they ve always suspected to be alive, he's alive, a naughty leaves the film over it. So it's a very important moment, but if I could do it over again, if I heard that I would have pulled surreal. No out of the film there should have been no survivors in the thumb and one of the things you see in the so called directors cut of the film in the uncut version of the film is that every sequences punk culminates in these abrupt cuts to silence places where there's an abrupt shift in the perspective of the film from the perpetrators to the absent dead, who may hope haunt the whole film and in look of silence, because I set out to shoot it after editing the act of killing. I wanted to draw the viewer into any one of those haunted silences and feet, make you feel
What is it like to live there as a survivor What is it like to be surrounded by close, pressed in part by the still powerful and boasting, the traders to feel what is it like? What what is it like to live in this haunted space, and in that sense the two films have this very formal. They complement each other in a very precise way, formally yet I had an idea. It is also true that survivors burst through in a dramatic moment that you're describing the scene was, for you know, that's it very interesting to know how that scene came about because it was just again it. It did call mine the idea of a psychological experiment. Here we were putting people in situations. The just have never existed and rolling film and get it.
Stunning footage. In that case, it was tat. There was in averting yeah well couldn't have been fun for him, but it was a young one, more powerful moments in the film there's another scene in the look of silence. That may also have been somewhat accidental. I want to ask you about your there's, a scene where Oddy is talking to one of the killers in the company of his daughter, who appears to be around Aldys Age and the daughter clearly loves her father and she thinks she knows what he's about
but in his response to oddities questioning he pulls back the veil on some of the most barbarous behaviour any was ever heard of and he's sitting right beside his daughter. While he's doing this- and we see his daughter react to this it, sir. I should tear up just thinking about how she is she hears that our father did such terrible things as being the heads of chinese people just to tell a coffee shop frequented by chinese Indonesian, just a frightened then drinks with drink the blood of his victims and when she hears it, she she realizes that her fathers, not the hero, that she at least try to make herself believed that he was. Perhaps she always knew that Wasn't at that moment we see her face collapse. It's like she realized she's, realizing that you'll have to spend the rest of his life caring for a man. Until he dies, who is in some terrible way now a stranger to her, and
she doesn't do what I think I would do in such a situation, which is to panic and kicking. But he out of the house and collect herself. She response to them moral gaze of ideology says: it's not your fault, let your father did and he's whatever. Here he's, whatever is done, is still your father. She response to that. I find this becoming very still very quiet. Listening to your conscience and apologizing reaching out across this a bit of fear and guilt, that's dividing everybody in the society and sang. Think of me, like family now come and visit us often, and in fact, already than is forced to take responsibility for its own project
looking at people with forgiveness and is forced to forgive not only her but who helped us. He doesn't have to forgive her. She hasn't done anything wrong, but he then has to forgive her father and he he hugs Herbert hugs. Also him the Father looks totally uncomfortable year would seem to be happening. There was, that ADI was acting largely out of compassion for her a he's witnessing her disillusionment about her father and he's having a very direct interaction with her and when he hugged her father. I felt that it he was doing it for her just the whole right. That's right, I mean, I think, and I think this it he's doing it for her, and she says please don't leave. I things showing in her face in her body, language, stay longer and glancing with fear and her father at the moment, ADI leaves she's alive,
now with this man has done terrible things in his apologetic, as he says, he's goodbyes. I think that what you not exchange of looks between them and they look of silence, is really a film about he's. Changes of looks where all what's real words, shame and compassion and love, and empathy and fear that speaking, not the world that what's happening in these dialogues scenes in scenes. Confrontations is not the dialogue about the words, but the silence is between the words is with happening in that exchange of looks between Oddy and sums. Sears daughter is this: feeling. Is this feeling that somehow what's happening? There is the sense that there is a responsibility It comes with the moral gaze, and I think this is you asked me this question about how it was drawn in the Anwar and was
you found yourself getting drawn it on. Why not you have to remember that it was odd. He who, in two thousand three first encourage me to film the perpetrators and watched the footage I found with them and respond with the same gaze. We see again and again in a look of silence, depriving me in a way of the the comfortable position of condoms, of condemning these. People as in the whole human beings of saying these monsters. I couldn't do it because he refused to do it early in the look of silence was watching this man, who is striding while laughing how he killed women in this off away on his own wife, she's she's. Also, you just feel her. She laughed nervously too, but you feel fear there and there's something Since then, the in an already were thinking this man's
stir in he saying he he must be numb because he feel he made himself known because he feels so guilty, and I that is shocking were thinking already, must be crazy, but in general we are forced to see these men through artes, humanizing gaze and that doesn't make it easier for the perpetrators. It makes it harder because I had same feeling when I heard the other day, I recently on the radio, the survivors of the Charleston killings tongue, for giving the perpetrator the relatives of the victims forgiving the trader, you what was so moving is. First, you realize you realizing that this makes it much harder for the perpetrator, because now he has to see his victims as human beings and it similar. I think in fact
these humanizing gaze is precisely what, because he's seen them as human, their forced to see him as humanist reciprocal reciprocity, and that makes it hard for them. That's why they panic! That's why she apologizes that's why he hugs her lip when it any perpetrators until their forced to realise what they ve done is wrong because they ve been removed from power. Or because the national story has changed, they will not. They will not recognise that they will not acknowledge it. We keep them, but but if anything hope it lies in the next generation who can Are these humanizing gaze and say yes, your human, treating me like a human, so I will treat you like a human. We have ethical obligations to each other because we're looking at each other ass human beings and that's where change will come that's it the shattering seen and they are there shattering films and but shattering in a good way. I feel ethically improved for having seen
It does feel like a moral obligation to bear witness to these kinds of of human experiences and You have created circumstance where we can do that in a just stay, a wonderfully complex and intelligent and aesthetically beautiful way. The beauty tat strikes you as it is a paradox as well and again you ve. As you said, you created a kind of formal silence around these events and I'm not usually aware of the sound in films, but in the look of silence to suggest the sound of crickets and they d, this the subtle, Cosette and engineering. You did to bring out a stillness around this chaos. It was, I am really masterful side, just just one praise you again and encourage you to keep doing what you're doing this you are. You are the top of your game, Joshua you're, bringing the world tremendous value more. Thank you so very much. I hope our past cross and dumb
it s, a white one question I have. He was what's the best way to view your films in terms of support in your work and its GO to the cinema when you can for two reasons. First of all, disease are immersive experiences which are different on a small screen. I mean you're, not just getting in. For me, can being immersed in his bath of, as you said, sound and pictures that are that are making. You feel the haunted space where ghosts are abroad, because the dead haven't been buried in the Heavens, mourned properly, because no one was even there was never even a confirmation that they died so go to the cinema What are the cinema? Also, you are pro from being that it comes out in more cinemas, deliberation America's America, they start small, and if people go other cinemas book them eat other cinemas book them. There are reported in local papers and on the media on the radio and the discussion grows. So you know don't wait for them I want to come out on, Netflix, go see it anymore We theatre
it is a kind of temple where you can see the film and then and then he is, I said, get the look, the act of killing you can see. You don't have to see it before. You see the look of silence that is on that six and its on Netflix, in its uncut version directors cut and then on the website of the film the look of silence dot com. There is applied where you can learn more and get involved, and there is a letter writing campaigner repetition could get american politicians too. Been up about our own role and the genocide and to be classified documents and take responsibility because, of course, we cannot demand, that Indonesia, ah it by a launch, a truth and reconciliation process without being hypocrites. If we don't acknowledge our role in these crimes right, why encourage everyone to do all of those things and again Joshua? Thank you. So much for your time, and best of luck with the
the rest of the the roll out of silence. Thank you so much if you find this package I believe there are many ways you can support. It review it on Itunes or stature. Where we happen to listen to it, you can share it. Social media with your friends, you can blog about it or discuss it on your own podcast or you can support it directly and you can do this by subscribing through my website as samharris dot org and there you'll find subscriber only content which includes my ask me anything episodes. He also get access to advance tickets to my live events as well as streaming. Video of some of these events and he also get to hear the bonus questions from many
Transcript generated on 2020-03-24.