The Act of Killing

credit Joshua Oppenheimer
credit Carlos Arango de Montis
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“I have not seen a film as powerful, surreal and frightening in at least a decade.” — Werner Herzog

Year: 2012
Country: Denmark, Norway, UK
Running time: 159 mins
Censor Rating: R13 - violence, content that may disturb

Co-directors: Christine Cynn, Anonymous
Producers: Signe Byrge Sørensen, Joram ten Brink, Anne Köhncke, Michael Uwemedimo, Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, Anonymous
Executive producers: Errol Morris, Werner Herzog, André Singer, Joram ten Brink, Torstein Grude, Bjarte Mørner Tveit
Photography: Carlos Mariano Arango de Montis, Lars Skree
Editors: Niels Pagh Andersen, Janus Billeskov Jansen, Mariko Montpetit, Charlotte Munch Bengtsen, Ariadna Fatjó-Vilas Mestre
Sound: Gunn Tove Grønsberg, Henrik Gugge Garnov
Music: Elin Øyen Vister
In Bahasa Indonesia and English, English subtitles

With: Anwar Congo, Herman Koto, Ibrahim Sinik, Sakhyan Asmara, Adi Zulkadry, Safit Pardede, Syamsul Arifin

Festivals: Toronto 2012; Berlin, SXSW, New Directors/New Films 2013
Panorama Audience Award, Berlin Film Festival 2013

In this inspired and audacious documentary, filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer invites veterans of the 60s death squads, who carried out reprisals against Indonesia’s communists, to re-enact their vilest actions for his camera. Still riding high on gangster celebrity and status, the old thugs comply readily, devising exultant action movie scenarios to represent their brutal supremacy over the wily communist scum. The spectacle is both grotesque and clarifying: a Hollywood template accommodates the banality of evil.

Completed with the patronage of Errol Morris and Werner Herzog, veteran interrogators of the darkest hearts, The Act of Killing drives us into the thick of the violent trauma that continues to shadow life in the world’s fourth most populous land.

The Act of Killing is eye-opening both as a radical development in the documentary form and as an explosive journalistic exposé. It’s also a deeply disturbing emotional experience, a movie that some audiences will find upsetting or hard to stomach, even if it is also poetic, funny, profoundly strange

and moving… [Oppenheimer’s strategy is] a masterstroke, a ploy that turns his subjects into active collaborators and the apparatus of moviemaking into the ultimate wire tap.” — Tom Charity,

“If we are to transform Indonesia into the democracy it claims to be, citizens must recognise the terror and repression on which our contemporary history has been built. No film, or any other work of art for that matter, has done this more effectively than The Act of Killing. It is essential viewing for us all.” — National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia

NZIFF Staff Pick: Bill Gosden