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The Act of Killing (2012)

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A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.

Directors:

Joshua Oppenheimer, Anonymous (co-director) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 53 wins & 41 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Anwar Congo ... Himself - Executioner in 1965
Herman Koto ... Himself - Gangster and Paramilitary Leader
Syamsul Arifin Syamsul Arifin ... Himself - Governor of North Sumatra
Ibrahim Sinik Ibrahim Sinik ... Himself - Newspaper Publisher
Yapto Soerjosoemarno ... Himself - Leader of Pancasila Youth
Safit Pardede Safit Pardede ... Himself - Local Paramilitary Leader
Jusuf Kalla ... Himself - Vice President of Indonesia
Adi Zulkadry ... Himself - Fellow Executioner in 1965
Soaduon Siregar Soaduon Siregar ... Himself - Journalist
Suryono ... Himself - Anwar's Neighbor
Haji Marzuki Haji Marzuki ... Himself - Member of North Sumatra Parliament (as Marzuki)
Haji Anif ... Himself - Paramilitary Leader and Businessman
Rahmat Shah Rahmat Shah ... Himself - Member of Parliament
Sakhyan Asmara Sakhyan Asmara ... Himself - Deputy Minister of Youth and Sport
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Storyline

A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

When killers win, when killers become heroes. See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site | See more »

Country:

UK | Denmark | Norway

Language:

Indonesian | English

Release Date:

8 November 2012 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

Actul de a ucide See more »

Filming Locations:

Medan, Indonesia See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$27,450, 21 July 2013

Gross USA:

$486,919

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$726,324
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (extended) | (TV) | (TV)

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Joshua Oppenheimer began interviewing survivors and victims families of the events of 1965 before moving the focus of the film to the murderers following interference from local authorities. Anwar Congo was the 41st perpetrator/killer he interviewed. See more »

Quotes

Anwar Congo: Did the people I tortured feel the way I do here? I can feel what the people I tortured felt. Because here my dignity has been destroyed, and then fear come, right there and then. All the terror suddenly possessed my body. It surrounded me, and possessed me.
Joshua Oppenheimer: Actually, the people you tortured felt far worse, because you knew it's only a film. They knew they were being killed.
Anwar Congo: But I can feel it, Josh. Really, I feel it. Or have I sinned. I did this to so many people, Josh. Is it all coming back ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

The name "Anonymous" appears 49 times under 27 different crew positions in the credits. This was done to protect the identities of those crew members who feared retribution from the former Indonesian death squad leaders. See more »

Alternate Versions

The UK DVD and Blu-ray from Dogwoof contain the theatrical cut (115 min) and the director's cut (159 min). See more »


Soundtracks

Maju Tak Gentar
Composer: Cornel Simanjuntak
Courtesy of Pangihutan Simanjuntak
See more »

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User Reviews

The images create the viewer
1 December 2015 | by chaos-rampantSee all my reviews

I had been looking forward to this since first hearing about it. The subject would be deep and strange. It had involvement by Herzog in a project that seemed worthy of him. So I made a point to see the authorial version of close to three hours, hoping to land in a broader swim that goes out in search.

Kierkegaard said, "life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward". He means that life can only be made apparent in reflection but as you live it in the here and now it will be opaque. Conversely however, it means that if we hope to understand history in a significant way, so as to be able to recognize the forces at play in the here and now and not have to wait until later, we should try placing ourselves in it as something that was lived going forward.

So by way of history that we can understand backward we learn little here. A military coup in Indonesia resulted in the persecution and death of perhaps up to a million people - that was with Vietnam already underway the same year and driven by the same strategy of containing communism and shady American involvement. But that's another story to tell.

So how to begin to make sense in the here and now of a tragedy of unfathomable proportions? The filmmaker could have plainly presented a tapestry of facts and sought historians to explain larger swathes of context. It's not because he thinks the events will be fairly well known that he omits these, rather the whole point here is different.

The film is not a historic record that only finds its impetus in the murderers; it's an examination of delusion and ignorance now in this life. Not the fact of murder so much as how individuals carry it with them. They are asked to re enact events, the re enactments played back to them so they're both makers and viewers. How do they see themselves in what they see of themselves? What form does the memory take and what does it mean to live through it after the fact?

So these re enactments would be our focal point of entry into the self who lived through them, memory brought alive. Some of them are more fantastical than others. Some are just brutish and senseless, hemmed in by the brutish imagination of their makers. The most chilling thing however is that even the enactments of violent interrogation, in particular those, afford no realer apprehension; they look as banal as movie scenes.

Which is to say that there's a certain kind of artifice here that stands in our way and the actual filmmaker can't shed away. Some will say he achieves this in the finale and perhaps he does. But there's another nagging sense for me.

See, we follow two or three people, head executioners in their day, picked among dozens of others for the purpose of the film. It quickly becomes obvious why; they're each photogenic in their way, flamboyant and unabashed. It also becomes obvious that they think they're making a different sort of film, one that chronicles their exploits in a favored light. Not surprisingly; they have lived all their life within a state- sponsored narrative that sees events of that day as brave.

Now one of them has managed to build around himself something akin to a worldview that lets him escape any guilt. Is any other country innocent of much the same? Another is just a Jack Black looking dufus probably as capable of the same now. But the third one looks like he might be awakening to a more vital realization, the one we would perhaps like him to.

See, this is the whole thing. The film becomes about this man making the breakthrough to the kind of story we would like to see told, it's why the climax is reserved for him and not the one who is unrepentant. But this way have we penetrated artifice to get to the real stuff in a deep way? The scene where he retches in the same veranda where he garroted thousands, does it offer the realization we're after?

Suddenly it feels as contrived as a dramatized version. See, the whole thing can't be bogged down to whether this man is feeling pangs of regret now, it can't be a concern that he is, unless you're willing to buy the notion that ignorance and delusion have been chased away from him and he's now cleansed. This simply isn't how I'm prepared to leave this behind. Truth, or ecstatic truth like Herzog's kind, is always something you sculpt and this isn't particularly well sculpted truth.

What we learn about present day Indonesia was more chilling truth in its way. It becomes obvious that the political caste in power comes from much the same apparatus that exterminated people. A deputy minister openly hailing paramilitaries in a speech while wearing their jacket. A surreal TV talk show that would probably reach tens of millions of homes interviewing the murderers while the whole audience in attendance are paramilitaries. Everything here shows a deeply disturbing mentality that still gleams in the eyes of people.


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