Viennale ’13: The Act Of Killing

THE ACT OF KILLING by Josh Oppenheimer is a159 minutes long examination of perpetrators boasting about their killings. And it is one of the most powerful documentaries that I have seen in a long time.

The movie is about the men who killed more than 100.000 “communists” during the Sumatra massacres in 1965 (I have put communists in quotes because many were killed without reason). And a lot of these perpetrators live a completely normal live today and are boasting about their acts of killing. They are seen (and see themselves) as heroes.

The Act Of Killing

A few days before I saw the film at the Viennale Film festival, I attended a lecture hosted by EAVE, where producer Signe Byrge Sorensen talked about the long making and also about the unorthodox distribution of the movie (privately organized screenings in Indonesia to avoid censorship; the rethinking by the government about the perpetrators after the movie was released and so on).

The movie does not show the victims. But it stays wit the perpetrators until they start deconstructing themselves and their beliefs. The director does not only go along woth them during their everyday lives, but he offers them to reenact the scenes of their killings. For this movie about themselves they are acting as perpetrators and sometimes also as victims.

Somehow the film managed that I was never sympathizing with the protagonists, though I was really close to them for a long time. Even not in the end, when I got the feeling that at least one of them realized that he is guilty of murder.

I could write much more about this movie, as I kept thinking abut it for days. But I think you should simply watch it. This is the trailer:

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