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Entries in The Look of Silence (6)

Saturday
Feb202016

Interview: Joshua Oppenheimer and Adi on The Look of Silence

Amir here. I first fell in love with Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence in September 2014, at TIFF. It was the last, and best, film I watched at that festival, and it left an emotional mark that I lived with for days. I caught up with the film again when it was released for the public and my conviction that this was one of the best documentary features of all time was reaffirmed – in my book, one of 2015’s holy trinity of films. So, you can understand my excitement when I finally had the chance to speak with director Joshua Oppenheimer, and Adi, the subject of his film.

The Look of Silence, nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary, a companion piece to the director’s earlier film The Act of Killing (also nominated in its year), is about the victims of the Indonesian genocide, who live side by side with the men who perpetrated those crimes against their loved ones. In his graceful and compassionate study of these people and their haunted spaces, Oppenheimer finds the language to bring invisible pains to the screen and push the limits of documentary form.

We talk about the relationship between his two films, his experiences in Indonesia, influences on his filmmaking, where documentary cinema stands today, and Adi’s life after the film’s release.

AMIR SOLTANI: I know you’re probably tired of comparisons between your two latest films, but I feel like there’s nowhere else to start but The Act of Killing. There’s a theatrical element to the first film that The Look of Silence, despite being polished, stylized and even often staged, doesn’t have. It’s more formally understated. What initiated your formal approach to the second film?  

JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER: I think these two films are both rigorously about the present, or rather, the past’s role in the present. [More after the jump...]

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Feb132016

Podcast: Top Ten Edition

Nathaniel,  NickKatey, and Joe discuss their individual top ten lists. (There was a lot to cram in so your host apologizes for some ungraceful edits.)

43 minutes 
We discuss a lot of different titles including but not limited to: The Martian, Creed, Mistress America, Room, Diary of a Teenage Girl, Son of Saul, Spotlight, The Look of Silence and In Jackson Heights.

Related Reading:
15 Best of '15 -Nathaniel's Writeup
Carol Podcast 1 & Carol Podcast 2 ICYMI. it's high on our lists but we don't discuss it much this time due to time constraints

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download from iTunes soon

Top Ten Discussion

Saturday
Jan092016

Watching the Documentary Finalists: Part 3 - Confrontations

Glenn here looking at each of the 15 Academy’s documentary finalists from which five will be nominated for the Oscar.

We're at the final of three parts looking at the 15 finalists for the Academy's best documentary category. In the first part we examined people, in the second part we looked at world politics, and now confrontations. It's something that can come in a myriad of forms. Confrontations can be between enemies on TV sets around the nation or in the towns and jungles of Indonesia. Whether it’s the confrontation of death, or the confrontation of major religious corporation, these films encompass big themes that have a longstanding tradition in cinema but each go about it some wildly different ways.

All that after the jump

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jul242015

The Look of Silence

Amir returns to his favorite 2014 festival film, newly arrived in theaters...

Midway through The Look of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to the 2013 Best Documentary Nominee The Act of Killing, there is a seemingly innocuous moment that sends chills down the spine. The film’s protagonist, Adi, and a male companion are trudging through the forest as they discuss their assassinated family members. Slowly reciting the “Ashhad,” Muslim prayer for the departed, they arrive at a river that runs through the trees. The camera stops as they exit the frame. The forest’s natural humming and buzzing, and the slow movement of the water in dusk’s light lend the moment a haunting eeriness. The weight of their wounds lingers above the water; the emptiness of the space is terrifying.

This sequence is not unique to the structure of the film, a documentary whose emotional impact and, frequently, its thematic development, hinges on small, quiet moments; a shot of a motorcycle riding away toward the forests, a woman sitting still at the doorway of her house, a long gaze that captures the gravity of decades of history.  Every miniscule gesture is effective, and the cumulative impact of these small wonders adds up to a film that is, without hyperbole, one of the best documentaries ever made.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Sep242014

NYFF: The Look of Silence

The New York Film Festival begins this Friday, and here our pre-coverage continues with Jason taking on Joshua Oppenheimer's documentary The Look of Silence.

It was Winston Churchill who said that, "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it." And so it's gone for as long as there has been war, or even just one caveman bonking another caveman on the head with a bone fragment a la the opening scenes of 2001 - to the winner goes the watering hole, the bragging rights, the spoils. Documentarian Joshua Oppenheimer smells those spoils, and they stink.

The Look of Silence follows up on the promise of Oppenheimer's brilliant 2012 documentary The Act of Killing with devastating precision - where that first film took a long strange trip past some surreal dance routines slash murder reenactments performed by those on the "winning" side of history after the 1965 Indonesian genocide, Silence trains its eye on those left devastated in the wake of that original horror, those who continue to live under the thumb - much is made of how these people are neighbors, seeing each other every day - of those in power who now gleefully recount the atrocities, ones which viewed backwards through the lens of rose-colored self-righteousness and propaganda seem, to them, to be patriotism, heroism.

Oppenheimer picks at the scab of scarcely buried history - a "wound" is continually referred to, and he makes you feel as if the muddy floor of the jungle might flood open with gore at any moment. These villages seem wet with it - brown rivers run buoyed with invisible bodies, ghosts heavy and thick in the air like electrical storms. The victors can sense it too; they swat at the camera's insinuations like there's a cloud of gnats too small for us to see, their lips tremble, and as the rumbling in their bellies uneases them they try to squirm their way free - they're proud of their accomplishments until the script flips and they suddenly feel looked upon, and after that it's a torrent of equivocations: "I wasn't the one in charge," "I was just doing my duty," and on.

As with The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence feels extraordinary to even exist, especially in a day and age such as this where we can't really wrap our minds around people (especially politicians) not ten sentences and head-nods ahead of how they're coming off - but then, why should these men care? They won, at whatever cost - like mankind in God's image, like a rib torn from Adam to craft Eve, the past was molded and built by the beat of their bloodied knuckles. It is written.

At one point the daughter of one of the murderers illustrates this generational gap - the way the reality of the past has been sanded down with willful and precise misrepresentation - and as we watch her resolve shake upon hearing the truth what he father's heroism really consisted of it's as potent as a tidal wave. These people are neighbors alright, but only some of them seem to know their houses are build upon fields of blood and bones and unaccounted-for barbarism. And those who know, they watch and they wait, hoping someone - an Old Testament God seems as if not more likely than an American documentary filmmaker - will give voice, and vision, to their pain.

--

The Look of Silence screens at NYFF on Tuesday September 30th at 6:30pm and on Wednesday October 1st at 9pm.

Tuesday
Sep162014

Amir Sat on a Branch Reflecting on TIFF

Amir here, looking back at the Toronto Film Festival that recently wrapped up.

"Girlhood," superior to Boyhood and one of the best of TIFF 14

You may have noticed that after a few years of covering the festival to various degrees for The Film Experience, I was completely absent from this space for the past ten days, mostly because of a personal decision to enjoy the films without sweating over writing. TIFF is a big festival, maybe the most frantic and hectic in the world, with more choices than one can physically experience over ten days. Nathaniel and I shared so few films from the program’s sprawling lineup, we could have each written about every single thing we saw and you’d never know we attended the same festival. It’s this overwhelming scale that made me want to take a break from reporting, and yet, I feel unsure about how that affected my festival experience.

Writing about films for me is a passion born out of the necessity to articulate my thoughts on the things I watch. Maybe that process of writing makes the films more memorable? Isn’t it so that writing, even about bad films, makes us appreciate good cinema all the more? Without recording my memories, details about this year’s films have fled my mind quicker than ever. My feelings about some of them have been diluted a bit, too. There is something missing, even though I had the best festival experience of my life, meeting more people than ever and watching some terrific films. Maybe this pessimism is just a withdrawal symptom. Let’s stay positive!

As has become something of an unplanned tradition for me – with precedents including Oslo, August 31st and Closed Curtain – my favorite film of the festival came my way on the last day.

MORE...

"The Look of Silence" will be in theaters next summer

Click to read more ...