After the “flamboyant fever dream” and ontological experimentations of The Act of Killing (2013), Joshua Oppenheimer's latest film, The Look of Silence, comes as something of a shock. A poetic, intimate film, it relies on more traditional documentary styles, interviews, and observation in particular. At the same time, the film illustrates the challenges of documentary testimony, both practical (in terms of collection, credibility, and deployment) and existential (as a hybrid of truth and fiction). The challenges and oscillation offer a way of expressing the conditions of the survivors, caught between a past they know to be true and the amnesiac historiography that surrounds them. Although such strategies produce a similar destabilization of ontological and epistemological certainty akin to those found in Killing, there is nonetheless a departure as the sobriety confers a moral authority that enables this film to be deployed in social justice projects.
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