Government says 'The Look of Silence' is divisive, promotes Communism
A still image from 'The Look of Silence'
Rights groups are urging the Indonesian government's film censors to lift a ban on the controversial documentary The Look of Silence, which tells the story of massacres carried out during a communist purge in the 1960s.
The ban imposed on December 29 by the Indonesian Film Board — the Lembaga Sensor Film (LSF) — is unconstitutional, they say.
The LSF claims, among other points, that the documentary fails to promote national unity and incites sympathy for the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and communist teachings.
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The 98 minute-film by the award-winning director of The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer, looks at 1965 political massacres in Deli Serdang district in North Sumatra and the effect they have had on the family of one victim.
An estimated half million communists and alleged communists were killed between 1965 and 1966.
Speaking with ucanews.com on Tuesday, Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) called the LSF’s reasoning behind the ban baseless.
“We are afraid that the LSF has banned the film because certain parties, which disagree with it due to their involvement in the past crimes shown by the film, told the board to do so”, he said.
“It means that the LSF doesn’t want to reveal past human rights abuses and supports impunity,” he added.
On Monday, KontraS issued a statement urging the board to lift the ban, saying it violated the constitutionally guaranteed right to be informed.
Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch, agreed that the ban was inappropriate.
“The history needs to be given a meaning and to be faced. Those refusing the screenings of the film can’t accept the history and don’t want to acknowledge the dark of the past,” he said.
The film premiered on November 10 in Jakarta in cooperation with the Jakarta Arts Council.
Hundreds of screenings were held across the country to coincide with International Human Rights Day on December 10.
In Malang, East Java, however, military officials blocked the screening, saying the film could cause friction in society.
Alex Sihar of the Jakarta Arts Council also questioned the LSF’s reasoning. “Unity can be strengthened if there’s reconciliation with the victims’ families, right?”
However, the LSF chairman Mukhlis PaEni said that the film is about revenge. “It doesn’t need a manipulation. Making the film is like a manipulation. Reconciliation through a manipulation has a negative impact. Let reconciliation run naturally,” he told ucanews.com.
Private screenings for research purposes are still permissible, he said, in an act of “extraordinary tolerance” by the LSF.
PaEni said he didn’t wish to deny what took place in 1965, “but all truths don’t necessarily have to be told, right? Some can be told, some can’t.”
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