The Act of Killing - Trailer
The Act of Killing is a devastating look at Indonesia's repressions of the 1960s. The documentary screens on July 28 and August 3 as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival.PT2M51S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2puak 620 349 July 12, 2013
- Running time
- 115 min
- Joshua Oppenheimer
- OFLC rating
- Yet to be classified
- Indonesian, English
''There's many ghosts here,'' a snowy-haired senior citizen declares, gesturing to a nondescript roof space, ''because many people were killed here.'' If this scene feels sadly common to documentaries that invoke systemic mass murder, then Joshua Oppenheimer's remarkable The Act of Killing turns it inside out. The witness, an Indonesian man named Anwar Congo, is not a survivor but one of the killers.
There was, he recalls, so much blood from beating victims to death five decades ago that he had to improvise a cleaner solution. ''Can I show you,'' he jauntily says to the camera, holding a length of wire and a piece of timber.
Throughout this unforgettable film the perpetrators of obscene crimes proudly show the camera what they did, and by capturing their memories – not to mention their hopes and fantasies – the director creates a powerfully intimate vision of monstrous evil.
Still from The Act of Killing.
In 1965 a military regime began to usurp Indonesia's Sukarno government and in its wake came a bloody and convulsive anti-communist purge that resulted in about 1 million deaths. The army used paramilitary groups and gangsters, and in the northern Sumatran city of Medan it was people such as a young Congo who participated proudly.
There is nothing furtive about Oppenheimer's documentary. The mass murders of 1965 and 1966 are a source of pride to some Indonesians, and Congo and his associates used them as a platform to gain political strength. Everyone from talk-show hosts to regional politicians praise Congo and his still-active group, Pancasila Youth, and this wide-ranging movie reveals that unchecked evil can warp an entire nation.
The achievement of The Act of Killing, one of the decade's must-see documentaries, is it refuses to simplify these mass murderers, to render them as despicable and other-worldly outlines. By revealing the self-esteem and the remorse of Congo and his comrades, and giving them the means to express themselves, Oppenheimer shows them as real people capable of terrible acts.