Title: “The Act of Killing”
Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
If there’s one documentary that will stick with you, it’s “The Act of Killing.” In 1965, the military coup occurred in Indonesia. A purge began, resulting in the mass murder of accused Communists, ethnic Chinese, and others deemed unfit for the “New Order” of now President Suharto. This film follows Anwar Congo, a gangster and founding father of a paramilitary group, as he makes a film where he recreates some of the killings he took part in, but in the style of westerns, gangster films, and the like. Congo claims that he is not remorseful for his actions, but as the filming progresses, the imagery becomes more surreal and nightmarish as Congo begins to come to terms with his actions nearly fifty years before.
This film is haunting, plain and simple. To start, seeing the way these gangsters play around as they lightheartedly reenact their kills (at least in the beginning) is disturbing. As the imagery becomes more nightmarish, it begins to turn into more of a horror film.
It’s also fascinating as the film takes a brief look into Indonesian political life. It’s little wonder that Indonesia is often perceived as being one of the most corrupt nations on Earth. The corrupt in a basic parliamentary election is bald-faced and quite direct, as the candidates are expected to downright “buy” votes. Shakedowns are common-place as well, and we see this happen with no shame. It’s so common that it’s become a part of everyday life.
This film is not easy to watch. It’s troubling. It’s disturbing. But it sticks with you, both for its subject and its courage in confronting what has been called one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century, a mass murder for which there has never been any prosecutions. It’s definitely worth a watch, but be warned that it’s not for the faint of heart, especially when you remember that this is a documentary and not a horror film.
“The Act of Killing” earns 4.5 out of 5 stars.