Documentary Film Prize Recipient, 2016

The Look of Silence, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, is the 2016 recipient of The Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize. Through Oppenheimer’s footage of perpetrators of the 1965 Indonesian genocide, a family of survivors discovers how their son was murdered — and the identities of the killers. The documentary focuses on the youngest son, an optometrist named Adi, who confronts the men who killed his brother and asks them to accept responsibility for their actions. This unprecedented film initiates and bears witness to the collapse of fifty years of silence.

“The Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize is given to a documentary film each year that in the view of the judges best reflects the legacy of Ron Ridenhour — journalist, whistleblower, truth-teller, and social activist. This year’s selection represents a deep and committed search for truth,” said the Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize selection committee. “The Look of Silence, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, examines the legacy of genocidal violence that targeted alleged communists in Indonesia in the 1960s. However, since the perpetrators stayed in power, that period was cloaked in silence. Additionally, Oppenheimer reminds us that much remains unknown about America’s role in Indonesia, as an effort is underway to declassify files from that period. In light of the bravery and dedication shown by the protagonist, by Oppenheimer and by the entire filmmaking team (many of whom stayed anonymous for fear of reprisals) the Ridenhour jury can’t imagine a film more worthy of the 2016 Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize than Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence.”

“We are deeply honored to receive an award named for a man who, like the protagonist of The Look of Silence, chose to break the silence around atrocity,” said Joshua Oppenheimer. “The Indonesian genocide began 50 years ago, but in a terrible way it hasn’t ended. Perpetrators remain in power, and millions of survivors still live in fear. But the genocide is American history, too. The US helped engineer the killings, and for decades supported Indonesia’s military dictatorship. Following in the footsteps of Ron Ridenhour, we must acknowledge our role in these crimes, and take responsibility.”

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