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Former Santa Fe resident and filmmaker wins ‘genius grant’

Santa Fe native Joshua Oppenheimer. (Daniel Bergeron)

Santa Fe native Joshua Oppenheimer. (Daniel Bergeron)

SANTA FE, N.M. — Carol Oppenheimer of Santa Fe woke up Wednesday morning with a call from her brother in New York, who told her that her son and former Santa Fe resident Joshua Oppenheimer had won a prestigious MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” to continue making documentary films.

“We’re thrilled, we are just over the top about it,” said Carol on behalf of herself and her husband Morty Simon, Joshua’s stepfather. Joshua’s father is retired University of Maryland professor Joe Oppenheimer.

The $625,000 award to Joshua, who grew up in Santa Fe and Washington D.C., over five years “gives him the opportunity to do the kind of work he does,” with no strings attached, said his mother.

Joshua Oppenheimer, whose “The Act of Killing” about genocide in Indonesia in the 1960s was nominated for an Oscar, responded to an e-mail request for comment from the Journal Wednesday, just before turning in at about midnight in Copenhagen, Denmark, were he lives.

“This is astounding news, and it comes at the best possible time,” he wrote. “After a decade excavating the present-day legacy of the Indonesian genocide, the MacArthur fellowship will allow me to find the courage to dive in to something wholly new — with the freedom, wildness, depth, and focus necessary for exploring uncharted waters,” he said.

“How grateful I am to the MacArthur Foundation for this enormous honor. But film is collaboration – with reality, with characters, and with crew. My work wouldn’t exist without my family’s love and support, as well as a whole team of filmmakers: editors and cinematographers, producers and supporters — and, especially, my heroic Indonesian crew. I thank all of them from the bottom of my heart.”

Oppenheimer, 39, who attended the Brunn School in Santa Fe, was one of 21 “genius grants” winners for 2014 which announced Tuesday evening.

Oppenheimer’s new film “The Look of Silence,” was screened at the Telluride Film Festival two weeks ago to a standing ovation, Carol Oppenheimer said. Carol, Joshua, his film crew and Indonesian Adi Rukun, the soft-spoken optometrist who in the  new film confronts the murderers of his brother, all attended.