• In 'Look Me in the Eye', participants maintain eye contact with someone from whom they've become estranged. (SBS)
Pairs of estranged people come face to face in 'Look Me in the Eye'.
By
Gavin Scott

15 Aug 2017 - 9:00 AM  UPDATED 29 Aug 2017 - 5:00 PM

So many problems would disappear if people sat down with each other and sorted things out. But what if they didn’t talk - just looked each other in the eyes? Even better, according to a series of studies by neuroscientists that found direct eye contact can communicate more than words.

New SBS series Look Me in the Eye sets out to test that theory with pairs of participants who have shared history but, for one reason or another, are now estranged. The results will have you reaching for the tissues.

The social experiment, hosted by Ray Martin, brings together 17 pairs of people, one or both of whom are attempting to reconnect after a period of estrangement. The two participants sit facing each other for five minutes, not speaking but maintaining eye contact for the entire time. It might not sound it, but the experience is raw and confronting – and not just for the people involved in the process.

Once the five minutes have elapsed, the pair are given time by themselves in separate rooms. There, they decide if they want to continue to reconnect or if their eye-to-eye meeting has sufficiently addressed their needs.

Among the 17 pairs, there is a diverse range of back stories, from separated couples to former friends to parents and children looking to reconnect. One of the most unique – and affecting – scenarios is the meeting of former child soldier Ayik, who has reached out to the man who was once his teenaged prison guard in Sudan.

Although both men have separately relocated to Australia and moved on with their lives, their shared experience still casts a shadow for Ayik, who was just 13 at the time. He wants to confront Anyang, who was required to punish him, and try to forgive him. It’s powerful stuff.

But then so is every story in Look Me in the Eye. As the pairs sit down after years and sometimes decades of not having seen or spoken to each other, emotions run high. Whatever it was that caused their estrangement, all the built-up resentment, guilt and hurt feelings come pouring out – without a word being said.

Stock up on the Kleenex and tune in to the first episode of Look Me in the Eye when the six-part series begins Wednesday, 6 September at 8:30pm on SBS.

For 24/7 crisis support contact Lifeline...

Phone:13 11 14

Online: www.lifeline.org.au

More on the Guide
What happens when these total strangers share eye contact for a whole minute?
The results are quite extraordinary.
How long can YOU hold eye contact with someone before it gets weird?
Maintaining eye contact for a sustained length of time can be hard – especially with a stranger. How long can you last?