Over half a million dead, the world looked away, four families tell their stories (86 min)

In one of the largest unknown mass-killings of the 20th cen­tury, an esti­mated 500,000 to 1,000,000 Indone­sians were killed in 1965 when Gen­eral Suharto began a purge of sus­pected “com­mu­nists” through a com­plex and highly con­tested series of events–ultimately lead­ing him to the presidency.

40 Years of Silence: An Indone­sian Tragedy fol­lows the com­pelling tes­ti­monies of four indi­vid­u­als and their fam­i­lies, as they break the silence with an inti­mate look at what it was like for sur­vivors dur­ing Suharto’s New Order regime. Through their sto­ries, the audi­ence comes to under­stand the poten­tial for ret­ri­bu­tion, reha­bil­i­ta­tion, and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in modern-day Indone­sia within this trou­bled his­tor­i­cal context.

I think [the film] is important, so that people don’t forget what happened in those days. What’s more, up until this point, we have primarily seen films that present the government’s version of events. Even though there have been some other films, they have not been as complete as this one, which tells the story of four families with entirely different backgrounds: Chinese, Christian-Islam, Balinese Hindu, and an innocent child who becomes a victim due to his father’s status as an ex-political prisoner. I appreciate Robert Lemelson’s research and documentation of all these testimonies.
— Dr. Arivia, Activist and Founder of Women's Journal Foundation





Although Budi was born decades after the killings of 1965, he is harassed, stigmatized, and traumatized by local villagers in Java due to his father’s status as an ex-political prisoner. His all-consuming desire for revenge leads him to face the men who tormented him and his family members.



A high-caste Balinese, Degung was abandoned following his father’s death, and was raised by prostitutes in Surabaya, Java. He returns home as a teenager and eventually becomes a scholar and an activist, raising awareness of the trauma caused by 1965 and its aftermath.



Kereta is a Balinese farmer who witnessed the violence of 1965 firsthand. His father was betrayed by his own family and was subsequently executed in front of his children. After this, Kereta begins to withdraw under the pressure of continued surveillance and fear under the New Order, and finally retreats into his own world filled with Balinese spirits and gods.



At thirteen years old in Central Java, Lanny was abandoned by her father and later witnessed his execution. As an adult, she undergoes a profound spiritual crisis and must decide how to confront the past which has followed her into the present and, inevitably, into the future.

What the film lacks in broad political critique, it makes up for with the emotional depth of interviews with Kereta, Lanny, Degung, Budi and their families as they grapple with the past and struggle for redemption.
— Isabel Esterman, Jakarta Post

Anthropologists and Historians


Robert Lemelson, Ph.D.

Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles, co-authored book Understanding Trauma: Integrating Biological, Clinical, and Cultural Perspectives which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2008.


John Roosa, Ph.D.

Professor of History at the University of British Columbia, his book Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th Movement and Coup d’Etat in Indonesia was published in 2006 by University of Wisconsin Press.


Geoffrey Robinson, Ph.D.

Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles, co-authored book Understanding Trauma: Integrating Biological, Clinical, and Cultural Perspectives which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2008.


Baskara T. Wardaya, Ph.D.

Professor of History at Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta, Java, his book Supersemar Revealed! From the CIA to the creeping Coup D’etat against Bung Karno was published in 2006 by Galang Press in Jakarta.

The documentary, enriched with colorful stories, leaves its audience with interwoven and conflicting feelings of sympathy, anger, relief and a certain degree of shame for being unaware of such a horrific yet veiled past. “40 Years of Silence” is not only a documentation that unravels one of the darkest chapters in Indonesian history, it is a medium of liberation that clearly gives voice to victims of an until-now silenced past.
— Armando Siahaan, Jakarta Globe



Malcolm Cross
Music Composer

Malcolm Cross studied music performance and composition in London at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He also completed additional postgraduate studies in Jazz and Studio Music. Malcolm’s past work includes original film scores for “Insomniac Obsessions,” “Oh Saigon,” “I Dream of Dog,” and “The Grey”.


Richard Henderson
Music Editor

Richard Henderson attended S.U.N.Y. Buffalo in the late 70’s and studied film history. Richard’s vibrant career path led him to work as a music editor and music supervisor on such acclaimed films like “Borat,” “The Life Aquatic,” and “Into the Wild,” which won him the Golden Reel Award.


Dengue Fever
Featured Song, "Genjer-Genjer"

Dengue Fever is a Los Angeles based brand that combines Cambodian pop music with psychedelic rock. Their rendition of the song “Genjer Genjer” is featured in the film. The song “Genjer Genjer” was initially written about women who gather the genjer plant, tie it in bunches, and sell it in the market. The song later became associated with the Indonesian communist party, and the government banned its performance.

The film’s score, which was edited by Richard Henderson (“Borat,” “The Life Aquatic”), is entirely original and complements the intense testimonies of the participants. The use of archival footage and historical commentary is also effective, as is Lemelson’s attention to character development. As one spectator commented, the film does not attempt to “glamorize or create saints” out of the victims. Rather, they are portrayed honestly as complicated people coming to terms with the trauma of their past.
— Anita B Hofschneider, Harvard Crimson

Director's Statement


Robert Lemelson

Robert Lemelson is a cultural anthropologist, ethnographic filmmaker and philanthropist. Lemelson received his M.A. from the University of Chicago and Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at the University of California Los Angeles. Lemelson’s area of specialty is transcultural psychiatry; Southeast Asian Studies, particularly Indonesia; and psychological and medical anthropology. He currently is a research anthropologist in the Semel Institute of Neuroscience UCLA, and an adjunct professor of Anthropology at UCLA.

Pietro Scalia
Consulting Editor

Born in Sicily, Pietro Scalia won two Academy Awards for Best Editing including JFK by Oliver Stone and Black Hawk Down by Ridley Scott. His other editing credits are Body of Lies, American Gangster, Memoirs of a Geisha, Hannibal, Good Will Hunting, The Quick and The Dead, Stealing Beauty, Little Buddha and many others.

Alessandra Pasquino
Post-Production Supervisor

Alessandra Pasquino has produced broadcast commercials, documentaries and special projects for over 10 years. She has collaborated with many filmmakers and artists including: Oliver Stone, Wayne Wang, Klaus Kinski, Gregory Colbert, Leonardo Di Caprio, Pietro Scalia and Matthew Rolston. She is currently a freelance documentary producer and independent filmmaker.

Dag Yngvesson
Director of Photography

Dag Yngvesson was the cinematographer on “Stoked: the Rise of Gator,” a documentary about the rise and fall of skateboard legend Mark “Gator” Ragowski and wrote, produced and edited “Rated X: A Journey through Porn,” about the Los Angeles porn industry. Yngvesson studied film and anthropology at Pitzer and Hampshire Colleges.

Heidi Zimmerman

Heidi Zimmerman was brought on to the film by supervising editor, Pietro Scalia. Ms. Zimmerman has a BFA in Film Production from NYU, Tisch School of the Arts. She has cut documentaries, narratives, commercials, and music television. She is currently editing another short documentary for Elemental Productions and looks forward to more provocative work in the future.

Kathy Huang

Kathy Huang’s career as a filmmaker began in the dusty fields of South Texas. Inspired by her experiences teaching in a rural high school, she produced her first documentary on a teenager coming of age along the US-Mexico border. Her work has continued to center on underrepresented communities facing unique challenges and has played at festivals such as Tribeca and SILVERDOCS.

Wing Ko

Through the course of his career, Ko has collaborated with a who’s who of trendsetting artists, musicians and filmmakers. He worked with Spike Jonze on several music videos and edited the pilot for MTV’s “Jackass.” As a founding member of the innovative production company H-Gun, Ko helped create more than 80 music videos for Nine Inch Nails, Sound Garden, Smashing Pumpkins and other top bands of the time. For more than 15 years, he crewed skateboard videos and traveled the globe.

Emily Ng

Emily Ng was a writer and contributing editor for 40 Years. She completed her undergraduate studies in psychological anthropology and women’s studies at UCLA in 2006. Emily has long been interested in the ways pain, ambivalence, and hope color the human experience, which has inspired work in academic research (The Foundation for Psychocultural Research, UCLA Autism Project), alternative journalism (FEM Newsmagazine, Mother Jones), and psychiatric case management.

Luis Lopez
Graphic Design

Luis Lopez received a BFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design and an MFA from the Art Center College of Design. Luis is an LA-based freelance creative working in the fields of new media, motion graphics and design since 1988. For 40 Years of Silence, Luis worked on motion graphics, digital media, and collateral artwork design.

Ninik Supartini
Field Supervisor

Ninik Supartini assisted Dr. Lemelson in two research projects about community mental health in Java and Bali. Since 2006, Supartini has served as a mental health and psychosocial consultant for international humanitarian organizations working in post-disaster and conflict areas in Indonesia and Myanmar.



  • Win­ner, Award of Merit, Acco­lades Com­pe­ti­tion, 2009

  • Win­ner, Award of Excel­lence, Indie Fest, 2009

  • Win­ner, Best For­eign Fea­ture, Ore­gon Film Awards, 2012

  • Win­ner, Award of Excel­lence, Canada Inter­na­tional Film Awards, 2013

  • Nom­i­nee, Best Edit­ing in a Doc­u­men­tary Film, St. Tropez Inter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, 2013

  • Win­ner, Best Asian Doc­u­men­tary, Endeav­ours Doc­u­men­tary Film Fes­ti­val, Sin­ga­pore, Singapore






  • Boston Inter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, Boston, Mass­a­chu­setts, 2009

  • Amnesty Inter­na­tional “Films That Mat­ter,” Ams­ter­dam, Nether­lands, 2009

  • Glo­bians World + Cul­ture Doc­u­men­tary Film Fes­ti­val, Berlin, Ger­many, 2009

  • Inter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val of Thai­land, Phuket, Thai­land, 2009

  • Tai­wan Inter­na­tional Doc­u­men­tary Film Fes­ti­val, Taipei, Tai­wan, 2010

  • XIX Inter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of Eth­no­log­i­cal Film, Bel­grade, Ser­bia, 2010

  • Psy­chocin­ema Fes­ti­val, Jakarta, Indone­sia, 2010

  • Kingston New York Film Fes­ti­val, New York, New York, 2012

  • Inter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val for Peace, Inspi­ra­tion and Equal­ity, Jakarta, Indone­sia, 2012

  • Canada Inter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, Van­cou­ver, BC, Canada, 2013

  • St Tropez Inter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­vals, Nice, France, 2013

  • Endeav­ours Doc­u­men­tary Film Fes­ti­val, Sin­ga­pore, Sin­ga­pore, 2013


  • Los Ange­les Indone­sian Con­sulate Screen­ing, Los Ange­les, CA, 2012

  • CSUS His­tory Depart­ment Screen­ing, Sacra­mento, CA, 2009

  • Lem­baga Indone­sia Per­an­cis, Yogyakarta French Cul­tural Cen­ter, Yogyakarta, Indone­sia, 2011

  • Kean Uni­ver­sity, Human Rights Insti­tute, Union, NJ, 2009

  • UCLA Med­i­cine, Mind and Cul­ture, Los Ange­les, CA, 2007

  • Hamp­shire Col­lege, Divi­sion of Social Sci­ence, Amherst, MA, 2007

  • Sanata Dharma Uni­ver­sity, Yogyakarta, Java, Indone­sia, 2007

  • UCLA Med­i­cine, Mind and Cul­ture Group, Los Ange­les, CA, 2008

  • McGill Uni­ver­sity Sum­mer Insti­tute on Cul­tural Psy­chi­a­try, Mon­treal, Que­bec, Canada, 2008

  • The British Museum, Lon­don, GB, UK, 2008

  • UCLA Cul­ture, Brain and Devel­op­ment Group, Los Ange­les, CA, 2009

  • UCLA South­east Asian Stud­ies Cen­ter, Los Ange­les, CA, 2009

  • UCLA South­east Asian Stud­ies Cen­ter, Los Angles, CA, 2009

  • UCSD, Depart­ment of Anthro­pol­ogy, San Diego, CA, 2009

  • Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity, Geno­cide Pre­ven­tion Pro­gram, New York, NY, 2009

  • Goethe Insti­tute, Jakarta, Indone­sia, 2009

  • Hamp­shire Col­lege, Divi­sion of Social Sci­ence, Amherst, MA, 2009

  • Har­vard Uni­ver­sity, Divi­sion of Social Sci­ence, Cam­bridge, MA, 2009

  • Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, Divi­sion of Social Sci­ence, Boston, MA, 2009

  • UCLA, James Bridges The­ater, Los Ange­les, CA, 2011

  • Kine Forum, Jakarta, Indone­sia, 2011

  • UC River­side, Cen­ter for Ideas and Soci­ety, River­side, CA, 2012

  • Wash­ing­ton Indone­sian Com­mu­nity Screen­ing, Wash­ing­ton, DC, 2012

  • Duarte Inn Indone­sian Com­mu­nity, Duarte, CA, 2011

  • Yale Uni­ver­sity, Coun­cil on South­east Asian Stud­ies, Indone­sian Forum, New Haven, CT, 2009


  • Inter­na­tional Asso­ci­a­tion of Geno­cide Schol­ars Bi-Annual Meet­ing, Sara­jevo, Bosnia, 2007

  • McGill Uni­ver­sity “Peace, Con­flict and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion: Con­tri­bu­tions from Cul­tural Psy­chi­a­try” Con­fer­ence, Mon­treal, Que­bec, Canada, 2008.

  • Emory Uni­ver­sity “What’s at Stake in the Ethnog­ra­phy of Human Expe­ri­ence? Phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal and Psy­cho­an­a­lytic Per­spec­tives” Con­fer­ence, Atlanta, GA, 2009

  • Seton Hill Uni­ver­sity, National Catholic Cen­ter for the Study of Geno­cide, Greens­burg, PA, 2009

  • Inter­na­tional Soci­ety for Study of Trauma and Dis­so­ci­a­tion, Wash­ing­ton, D.C., 2009

  • Seton Hill Uni­ver­sity, Ethel LeFrak Holo­caust Edu­ca­tion Con­fer­ence, Greens­burg, PA, 2009

  • Rut­gers Uni­ver­sity Cen­ter for the Study of Geno­cide and Human Rights “Lega­cies of Geno­cide and Mass Vio­lence: Mem­ory, Symp­tom and Response” Con­fer­ence, Newark, NJ, 2009

  • Uni­ver­sity of Syd­ney “Indone­sia Coun­cil Open Con­fer­ence,” Syd­ney, Aus­tralia, 2009

  • North­ern Illi­nois Uni­ver­sity Sum­mer Insti­tute, “Geno­cide and Human Rights in South­east Asia Con­fer­ence”, DeKalb, IL, 2009

  • National Uni­ver­sity of Sin­ga­pore Asia Research Insti­tute, “1965–66 Indone­sian Killings Revis­ited Con­fer­ence”, Sin­ga­pore, Sin­ga­pore, 2009

  • Indone­sian Coun­cil Open Con­fer­ence on the Events of 1965, Syd­ney, Aus­tralia, 2009

  • Inter­na­tional Asso­ci­a­tion for Geno­cide Schol­ars Annual Con­fer­ence, Arling­ton, VA, 2009

  • Case West­ern Uni­ver­sity: Con­fer­ence “New Direc­tions in Pol­icy Rel­e­vant Research on Ado­les­cence: Per­spec­tives from Psy­cho­log­i­cal Anthro­pol­ogy,” Cleve­land, OH, 2009

  • Inter­na­tional Human Rights Work­shop, Los Ange­les, CA, 2011

  • UC Berke­ley, Med­ical Anthro­pol­ogy Col­lo­quium, Berke­ley, CA, 2011

  • Cen­tral Michi­gan Uni­ver­sity “Human Rights, Lit­er­a­ture, the Arts, and Social Sci­ences Inter­na­tional Con­fer­ence,” Mount Pleas­ant, MI, 2011

  • 3rd World Con­gress of Cul­tural Psy­chi­a­try, Lon­don, UK, 2012

  • Uni­ver­sity of Chicago, Chicago, IL, 2013

  • The National Con­sor­tium of Tor­ture Treat­ment Pro­gram, Port­land, Ore­gon, 2013

  • The National Con­sor­tium of Tor­ture Treat­ment Program’s 5th Annual Research Sym­po­sium: “Tor­ture Treat­ment,
    Clin­i­cal, Com­mu­nity and Pol­icy Inter­ven­tions and Out­comes”, Wash­ing­ton, D.C., 2013

  • The 18th Inter­na­tional Con­fer­ence and Sum­mit on Vio­lence, Abuse, and Trauma, San Diego, CA, 2013