The Act Of Killing (2012)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBBDenmark/Norway/United Kingdom, 2012.  , , , .  Cinematography by Anonymous, , . Produced by Anonymous, Christine Cynn, , , , .  Film Editing by , , , , .  

Joshua Oppenheimer originally intended to make a documentary about victims of death squad leaders who rose to prominence following the military overthrow of the Indonesian government in 1965.  Oppenheimer found that he could barely get individuals to go on camera with their stories since, unlike other places where dictatorship and genocide destroyed a generation and eventually ended, Indonesia’s executioners are still in power and winning over the population with their rhetoric.  This leads to a far more curious investigation, the director switching his focus to a group of men who were once employed together in a movie theatre which they used as a front for their criminal dealings before the dictatorship gave them more substantial power over the country’s ciizens.  On the orders of the state they imprisoned and killed vast numbers of people, and the director asks them to describe their experiences as executioners by having them make their own little films about what they have done.  It sounds completely insane, but the atmosphere in which Oppenheimer finds himself is something of an opposite world, where political leaders speak about the “gangster” as a misunderstood name for a hard worker while promising their citizens to rid the country of the still threatening evils of communism, referencing a past that you might consider as full of atrocities as if they were a golden age of a harmonious society.  What results from the films these men make is beyond fascinating, a collection of play-acting scenarios with far-ranging genre influences of American film noir, musicals and action films; whether the exercise will give the men a new perspective on the lives they have taken is another matter to explore.  Oppenheimer is aware that he has footage of extraordinarily unique value to the average western viewer, and so films in such a spare and subtle manner that there’s no flavour of outsider judgment coming from behind the camera (which, by the time you get to these men donning dresses and lip-synching while pretending to kill or be killed, is a pretty impressive feat on his part).

Academy Award Nomination:  Best Documentary Feature

European Film Award:  Best European Documentary

Toronto International Film Festival :  2012

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