Stylised documentary re-enacts Indonesian genocide (video)

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Act of KillingA documentary by British American film-maker Joshua Lincoln Oppenheimer, The Act of Killing, investigates the lives of remorseless former commanders of Indonesian death squads who are challenged to (fictionally) imitate the many murders they once committed.

The film has gained so much traction that the Indonesian historian Asvi Warman Adam has called it “one of the three pillars in the history of human rights in post-Suharto Indonesia.”

In 1965, Indonesia suffered a wide-sweeping genocide, an anti-communist purge targeting alleged “communists” (actually, intellectuals, enemies of the military, union members and ethnic Chinese), followed by a failed military coup, costing the lives of roughly 1 million people.Among the perpetrators were gangsters Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkardy, who sold black market movie theatre tickets during the time, and were later promoted as leaders in a death squad called “The Frog Squad”. Anwar is estimated to have killed about 1,000 people.

On August 31, 2012, Cinephil and Drafthouse Films released a documentary at the Telluride Film Festival, in which Oppenheimer invited Anwar and his former comrades to re-enact the killings on camera, including creating dramatic scenes showcasing their feelings and memories about the killings. The movie’s scenes are created in the style of both Anwar and Adi’s favorite film genres: western, gangster and musical.

In regards to what the film’s message is about, Oppenheimer stated in an Inside Indonesia interview that “the film is essentially not about what happened in 1965, but rather about a regime in which genocide has, paradoxically, been effaced and celebrated in order to keep the survivors terrified, the public brainwashed, and the perpetrators able to live with themselves.

It is an exposé of what happens to us, as individual human beings and entire societies (and these two things are inseparable, of course) when we build our normality on a mountain of corpses, on terror and lies. The film is about Indonesia now, at the time I filmed it, and the institutions and individuals in the film are shaped by what they experienced.”

The film has been praised with stellar reviews, and as of June 2013, boasts a 100 per cent rating on film view aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, a Metacritic score of 92 out of 100, and a score of 7.7 out of 10 on IMDB.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

A documentary by British American film-maker Joshua Lincoln Oppenheimer, The Act of Killing, investigates the lives of remorseless former commanders of Indonesian death squads who are challenged to (fictionally) imitate the many murders they once committed.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Act of KillingA documentary by British American film-maker Joshua Lincoln Oppenheimer, The Act of Killing, investigates the lives of remorseless former commanders of Indonesian death squads who are challenged to (fictionally) imitate the many murders they once committed.

The film has gained so much traction that the Indonesian historian Asvi Warman Adam has called it “one of the three pillars in the history of human rights in post-Suharto Indonesia.”

In 1965, Indonesia suffered a wide-sweeping genocide, an anti-communist purge targeting alleged “communists” (actually, intellectuals, enemies of the military, union members and ethnic Chinese), followed by a failed military coup, costing the lives of roughly 1 million people.Among the perpetrators were gangsters Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkardy, who sold black market movie theatre tickets during the time, and were later promoted as leaders in a death squad called “The Frog Squad”. Anwar is estimated to have killed about 1,000 people.

On August 31, 2012, Cinephil and Drafthouse Films released a documentary at the Telluride Film Festival, in which Oppenheimer invited Anwar and his former comrades to re-enact the killings on camera, including creating dramatic scenes showcasing their feelings and memories about the killings. The movie’s scenes are created in the style of both Anwar and Adi’s favorite film genres: western, gangster and musical.

In regards to what the film’s message is about, Oppenheimer stated in an Inside Indonesia interview that “the film is essentially not about what happened in 1965, but rather about a regime in which genocide has, paradoxically, been effaced and celebrated in order to keep the survivors terrified, the public brainwashed, and the perpetrators able to live with themselves.

It is an exposé of what happens to us, as individual human beings and entire societies (and these two things are inseparable, of course) when we build our normality on a mountain of corpses, on terror and lies. The film is about Indonesia now, at the time I filmed it, and the institutions and individuals in the film are shaped by what they experienced.”

The film has been praised with stellar reviews, and as of June 2013, boasts a 100 per cent rating on film view aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, a Metacritic score of 92 out of 100, and a score of 7.7 out of 10 on IMDB.

Do you like this post?
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