(Fixes that Indonesian film is in competition, changes spelling
of last name to Rukun in paras 7-8)
* Indonesia film crew kept secret due safety fears -director
* Charlie Chaplin son says helped film on stealing coffin
* Iranian director says sanctions hurt ordinary people
By Michael Roddy
VENICE, Aug 28 Films about a 1960s massacre in
Indonesia and the harsh conditions in Iran under present-day
international sanctions and how they affect ordinary people
struck sombre notes at the Venice Film Festival on Thursday.
A French caper based on a fictionalised version of a true
story about the theft of Charlie Chaplin's coffin shortly after
his death in 1977 was shown as another of 20 films in contention
for the festival's top prize, to be awarded next week, and
provided a macabre, touching and often humorous counterpoint.
Eugene Chaplin, Chaplin's son, said at a news conference he
had been sceptical about cooperating on director Xavier
Beauvois's "La rancon de la gloire" (The Price of Glory) because
"I didn't see what could be funny about stealing a coffin". But,
after seeing Beauvois's films, "I thought, 'Why not?'"
American director Joshua Oppenheimer's competition film "The
Look of Silence" is his second documentary based on death squads
that roamed Indonesia in the wake of a failed communist-led coup
attempt and killed as many as a million people. The first, "The
Act of Killing" (2012), was nominated for an Oscar in the
Asked at a press conference on Thursday why the credits for
the new film, which had its premiere on Wednesday night, mostly
read "anonymous", Oppenheimer said the production crew was at
risk if their identities were revealed.
"There is a grave political risk for anybody involved with
the crew in Indonesia if their identities become known to the
authorities, especially to the military and the paramilitary
group that played such a prominent role in my previous film."
He also said that Adi Rukun, a travelling optometrist who
meets with some of his brother Ramli's killers in the course of
the new film, had to move to a different part of Indonesia due
to concerns for his safety once the film was released.
Rukun, who is in his 40s, said he agreed to participate
after seeing clips assembled by Oppenheimer that had showed him
the magnitude and brutality of the killing, and convinced him
the past had to be confronted to assure a better future.
"I only want the perpetrators to acknowledge and admit what
they did and to acknowledge that they were wrong so that we
would somehow be able to actually forgive each other and live
together, that's all I wanted from those confrontations," he
said in remarks translated into English.
"We live in one community which is split by mutual feelings
of suspicion and fear and I really want all of this to end."
Iranian director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad said she had not had
to film underground in Iran where her film "Ghesseha" (Tales)
was shot, at least in part with a digital camera that with its
grainy images emphasises the grittiness of life in Tehran.
"The main thing is that the story, the project, needs to be
accepted within the country, it needs to reflect peoples'
lives," she said after the film's first festival screening.
What it shows in a bleak and desolate-seeming Tehran is the
lives of people with barely enough money to survive being made
more miserable by a Kafkaesque bureaucracy, unemployment, drug
addiction and wife abuse.
In one case a functionary will not listen to an elderly
former civil servant's plea to recoup crippling medical costs
because the bureaucrat is more interested in taking a call from
Also shown are the aimless and drug-scarred lives of young
people who cannot get proper jobs, like a formerly promising
university student named Hamed who was expelled for his
political views and now drives a taxi cab part-time, helping
chauffeur people to and from a centre that helps battered wives.
Bani-Etemad, who is one of Iran's best known directors, said
that the film was intended in part to show how the international
sanctions imposed on Iran over its disputed nuclear programme
have had a devastating effect on daily life.
"The economic situation in Iran is critical and this is due
to the embargo which actually penalised the people in the
country," she said. "Our children, who suffer from very severe
diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis, are actually
suffering from the consequences of the embargo."
She urged people at "the international level" to realise
that "international decisions always affect the people".
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)