Once again Danish producer Signe Byrge Sørensen and Copenhagen-based director Joshua Oppenheimer have proved a powerful duo. "The Look of Silence," following the success of their Oscar-nominated "The Act of Killing," is the first Danish-produced film in 24 years to be selected for the Official Competition at Venice Film Festival, an achievement that culminated during Saturday's awards gala as the film won the Grand Jury Prize.
While Joshua Oppenheimer in "The Act of Killing" made the sensational choice of retelling the horrors of Indonesia's anti-communist purge of 1965-66 from the killers' perspective, "The Look of Silence" follows a young man, Adi, looking up the men who killed his brother, in search for answers. In what are the film's key scenes, we see Adi, in his capacity as optician, questioning the perpetrators about the past while measuring their eyesight with optical lenses.
"I had this feeling we were entering totally uncharted waters," Joshua Oppenheimer explains in our fall magazine FILM. "I can't think of another film in which a survivor of political violence, or a relative of a victim, confronts a perpetrator while the perpetrators are still in power." Read Nick Bradshaw's interview Holding a Mirror to Horror
Helle Hansen, film commissioner at the Danish Film Institute, accepted the award on behalf of Joshua Oppenheimer. He and producer Signe Byrge Sørensen have already set course for the Toronto Film Festival, where the film will have its first official screening on Tuesday, 9 September.
In a Danish context, winning one of Venice's principal awards, Oppenheimer finds himself in the distinguished company of Carl Theodor Dreyer who received the Special Jury Prize for "Day of Wrath" in 1947 and in 1955 won the Golden Lion for "The Word". In 1990, Helle Ryslinge's "Sirup" was awarded a Silver Lion for Best Screenplay.
"The Look of Silence" is produced by Signe Byrge Sørensen for Final Cut for Real with support from the Danish Film Institute.
Additional Awards to The Look of Silence
"The Look of Silence" also received these honours from independent cultural organisations:
- The International Federation of Film Critics' FIPRESCI Award for Best Film
- The Federation of Film Critics of Europe and the Mediterranean FEODORA Award for Best European-Mediterranean Film
- The Association of Italian Online Film Critics' Mouse d'Oro Award for Best Film
- The Human Rights Nights Award (won jointly with "Io Sto con la Sposa" by Antonio Augugliaro, Gabriele Del Grande and Khaled Soliman al-Nassiry)
Winner of the Golden Lion is Sweden's "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence" by Roy Andersson.