STARRING: Anwar Congo, Herman Koto, Syamsul Arifin, Ibrahim Sinik, Yapto Soerjosoemarno, Safit Pardede, Jusuf Kalla, Adi Zulkadry, Soaduon Siregar, Suryono, Haji Marzuki, Haji Anif, Rahmat Shah and Sakhyan Asmara
EARNED (Worldwide): $0.48m
AWARDS: 1 BAFTA for Best Documentary
A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.
The Act of Killing is a documentary that focuses on the perpetrators of the Indonesian killings in 1965-66, in which when the Suharto overthrew Sukarno, the President of Indonesia, following the failed coup of the 30th September Movement in 1965, local gangsters Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry were promoted from selling black market film theatre tickets to leading the most powerful death squad in North Sumatra, which led to almost a million people from the communist community being killed.
The Act of Killing is unlike any documentary that I have seen before and even in multiple viewings, the shock I feel in watching it never fades away. The fact that Joshua Oppenheimer manages to not only get the death-squad leaders to reenact their mass killing in whichever cinematic genre they wish to use from gangster flicks to musicals, it’s the way in which they boast about what they did and how they are embraced as role models, celebrity status almost, including in one instance they appear on a TV chatshow which left me dumbfounded by what I was watching. The reenactments speak for themselves about the methods the assassins took in killing those on the suspicion of being a ‘communist’, coldly explaining that stabbing to strangling was best due to it involving less of a mess and their attention to detail in how they do it. While the reenactments are difficult to comprehend how close to reality they were, we do see that they do eventually take an affect on the main gangster we follow in Anwar Congo who shows a small amount of conscience as to what he has done. A haunting, horrifying viewing that leaves you speechless by the documentaries end credits.
FAVOURITE SCENE: The final scene with Anwar Congo. I can’t explain it further as it will give away a lot of what has happened in the documentary leading to that point.
FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘It’s a good family movie; plenty of humor; a great story; Wonderful scenery. It really show what’s special about our country even though it’s a film about death.’ – Anwar Congo
DID YOU KNOW?: The project started focusing on the family of the victims, but a lot were arrested as Joshua Oppenheimer was doing the interviews with them. In that process he started meeting torturers, so he decided to refocus the story on them.