Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

40 Years of Silence

  Bookmark and Share

News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

June 1, 2009

Note to editors: To arrange an interview with director Robert Lemelson, contact Lakeitcha Thomas at

NIU will screen documentary
on 1960s purge in Indonesia

DeKalb, Ill. — The public is invited to a free screening of the new film, “40 Years of Silence: An Indonesian Tragedy,” a moving feature-length documentary about one of the darkest chapters in the Southeast Asian country’s history.

The screening will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 22, in the Heritage Room of the Holmes Student Center on the Northern Illinois University campus.

Directed by Anthropologist Robert Lemelson and edited by two-time Academy Award-winner Pietro Scalia, “40 Years of Silence” follows the compelling testimonies of four individuals and their families from Central Java and Bali, two regions heavily affected by the 1965-66 purge of suspected communists throughout Indonesia. An estimated 500,000 to 1 million people were secretly and systematically killed.

As they break their silence publicly for the first time in the documentary, each family provides an intimate and frightening look at what it was like for survivors of the mass killings. In chilling detail, they describe the events of 1965, reliving and reflecting upon the stigmatization and brutalization that they continue to endure on both the village and state levels. Over time, the survivors and their families attempt to find ways to deal with a tragedy that was not openly recognized by their neighbors, government or the world.

“What’s happened in Indonesia has long been overlooked when it comes to discussing mass violence,” says NIU History Professor J.D. Bowers, an expert on the history of genocide and human rights. “At the time, the regime in Indonesia kept the world from knowing what was happening. Dr. Lemelson is one of first to expose the real story.”

Faculty members from NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies and Chin Rodger, a member of the production team for “40 Years of Silence,” will be on hand during the NIU screening to answer audience questions.

The film is being shown in conjunction with the 2009 Southeast Asia Summer Institute: Teaching about Genocide and Human Rights in Southeast Asia for K-16 Educators. The institute is organized by the NIU Center for Southeast Asian Studies, a U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center. For more information about the institute, see For more information about the documentary, see

# # #