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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Act of Killing

A highly disturbing documentary about the mass killings of Communists in Indonesia in the 1960s, The Act of Killing was directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn and one anonymous Indonesian director.

The documentary focuses on Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry, two leaders of death squads in North Sumatra after the failed coup d'etat in1965. The army blamed the coup attempt on the Indonesian Communist Party and consequently about half a million of communists were slaughtered. Today the two men are part of Pemuda Pancasila, a paramilitary organization which grew out of the death squads. As the Pemuda Pancasila is a powerful organization with its leaders in Indonesian politics, its history of genocide is by no means hidden and members even brag about it. This is where the filmmakers come in as they ask Anwar and Adi to recreate their crimes against humanity for the camera, staged in the style of their favorite Hollywood films. The results are terrifying as the men frankly recount in detail how they murdered many individuals and recreate entire surreal stagings of the killings in the form of gangster movies and even musicals.

An utterly disturbing and unique documentary, The Act of Killing was executive produced by such heavy-hitters as Errol Morris, Werner Herzog and Andre Singer. The film won Best Documentary at the BAFTA Awards, the European Film Awards and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards as well as being nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards. An extremely difficult yet utterly compelling documentary to watch.

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