You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

BUSAN: Docu Filmmaker Oppenheimer Reveals ‘Killing’ Details

BUSAN — Award-winning documentary filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer talked at Dongseo University in Busan on Monday about the decade he spent making “The Act of Killing” and “The Look of Silence,” films that deal with the mass killings of suspected Communists in Indonesia in the 1960s.

Though both films have been showered with honors and festival invites, including an Oscar nod for the former and the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Venice fest for the latter, the hardships — both financial and emotional — that Oppenheimer endured making them were still vivid in his mind as he spoke to a rapt audience. He described being turned down for funding for “The Act of Killing” and forced to cobble together production money from university grants and other sources. He talked about “being embarrassed in front of my crew for asking them to shoot more footage” when he had no idea if the film would ever see the light of day. “I thought no one might care if it spent the next 50 years under my bed,” he said.

But he kept filming and editing “The Act of Killing,” until light began to appear at the end of the tunnel in the form of Norwegian producer Signe Byrge Sorenson and other supporters. “If the film is strong, it’s not that I’m so clever, but that I kept going,” he said. His takeaway after spending 10 years living and working with the survivors of victims and the still powerful perpetrators (though one of the film’s central figures is a repentant killer): “I’ve become more forgiving. If you do something bad it doesn’t mean you are bad.” He also describes the changing Indonesian attitudes toward the killings since the release of “The Act of Killing,” which has been seen by millions in the country. “People are no longer so afraid of each other,” he said.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Germany's Leonine Buys ‘Dark’ and '4

    German Indie Studio Leonine Buys ‘Dark’ and '4 Blocks' Producer W&B TV

    Leonine has acquired “Dark” producer W&B TV from Endemol Shine. Fledgling German studio Leonine had already bought Wiedemann & Berg Film and established itself as a Munich-based movies, TV, and digital production and distribution group. It has now added the W&B TV unit to its roster. The production company is behind several big German dramas [...]

  • iHuman

    Cinephil Acquires AI-Themed Political Thriller Documentary 'iHuman' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Tel Aviv-based Cinephil has acquired worldwide rights to Tonje Hessen Schei’s (“Drone”) “iHuman,” a political thriller documentary about artificial intelligence, power and social control. U.S.-based sales agent ro*co films is representing North America on the film, which will have its world premiere in the Frontlight section of Amsterdam’s International Documentary Film Festival. “iHuman” follows the [...]

  • 'Feast of the Seven Fishes' Review:

    Film Review: 'Feast of the Seven Fishes'

    Early on in “Feast of the Seven Fishes,” two characters debate the optimal way to decorate a house for Christmas. One favors an “understated” approach, with white lights and little more; the other argues that the holidays are no time for subtlety, advocating green, red and gold sparkle as far as the semi-blinded eye can [...]

  • Queen & Slim

    AFI Fest Film Review: 'Queen & Slim'

    Going to the movies can feel a lot like agreeing to a blind date: It’s normal to feel a little wary — but also a bit excited — at the potential before agreeing to spend two hours with characters you don’t know. If the film is any good, it wins you over early on, enough [...]

  • Steven Spielberg Branko Lustig

    'He Left Me Speechless': Steven Spielberg Remembers Branko Lustig

    Steven Spielberg has offered a touching remembrance of Branko Lustig, the Holocaust survivor who produced “Schindler’s List” with Spielberg and Gerald Molen and died Thursday in Croatia. “I was heartbroken to hear of Branko’s passing and my thoughts are with his family and friends,” Spielberg said. “When we first met to discuss ‘Schindler’s List,’ he [...]

  • Dylan Brosnan and Paris BrosnanGolden Globe

    Pierce Brosnan’s Sons Paris and Dylan Brosnan Named 2020 Golden Globe Ambassadors

    Pierce Brosnan’s two youngest sons, Paris and Dylan Brosnan, have been named as the 2020 Golden Globe Ambassadors, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced on Thursday evening. Paris and Dylan are also the sons of journalist and author Keely Shaye Smith. The ambassador(s), a title that typically goes to the son or daughter of a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content