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The Act of Killing (2012)

8.2
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 11,395 users   Metascore: 89/100
Reviews: 72 user | 215 critic | 30 from Metacritic.com

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.

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 35 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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

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.

Add Full Plot | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A story of killers who win, and the society they build


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

| |  »

Country:

| |

Language:

|

Release Date:

8 November 2012 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

The Act of Killing  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Budget:

$1,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$27,450 (USA) (19 July 2013)

Gross:

$484,221 (USA) (28 February 2014)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (extended)

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Two of the world's most honored documentary filmmakers - Werner Herzog and Errol Morris - are credited as executive producers. See more »

Quotes

Safit Pardede: We crushed their necks with wood. We hung them. We strangled them with wire. We cut off their heads. We ran them over with cars. We were allowed to do it. And, the proof is we murdered people and were never punished. The people we killed, there's nothing to be done about it. They have to accept it. Maybe I'm just trying to make myself feel better, but it works: I've never felt guilty, never been depressed, never had nightmares.
See more »

Connections

References Born Free (1966) See more »

Soundtracks

Cotton Fields
Composer: Leadbelly (as Huddie Ledbetter)
© Folkways Music Publishing Inc.
Courtesy of Musikfürlaget Essex AB
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Uncomfortable to Watch
14 August 2013 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

Greetings again from the darkness. To some: a national hero. To others: a monster or war criminal. Co-director Joshua Oppenheimer's concept was either to re-examine history or study the dark side of human nature. Either way, this is one of the most disturbing, difficult to watch documentaries I've ever seen.

The film begins with this quote from Voltaire: "It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets". We then read text that provides the only historical background provided by the film ... the Indonesian coup in 1965 that led to a year long slaughter of anyone deemed to be a communist. In reality, the definition was quite broad and basically included anyone who wasn't totally onboard with the new power structure.

To carry out the massacre, a death squad of gangsters was employed and Oppenheimer recruits one of the most brutal of these gangsters to an "art" project: recreate your most heinous kills in whatever film genre you prefer. Anwar Congo agrees and even arranges for his accomplices to join in. The result is the most bizarre mixture of classic Hollywood crime thrillers and even a surreal musical number with bold colors and a giant metal fish.

That's the best description I can provide. While I found myself unable to look away, this is not one that can really be recommended as a form of entertainment. There are some stunning moments here, but it's nauseating to recall. An Indonesian TV talk show host is giddy to have these "heroic" gangsters on her show. Congo gathers his grandchildren to watch a brutal re-enactment of one of his missions. Their discussions of how important movies were to their murderous activities could lead to further analysis of the role of art in violence, but instead it points out why Congo agreed to this project in the first place - his ego is such that he seems himself as a Bogart type hero.

Renowned documentary filmmakers Werner Herzog and Errol Morris are both listed as producers, but some of the crew is listed as "anonymous" and who can blame them? While there seems to be no regret and no guilt for previous actions, there is an odd, extended scene where Congo's guttural bellows and dry-heaving leave us wondering if maybe there is a crack in his facade ... or is he just caught up in his performance. I'm not sure and I hope to never watch this again.


15 of 18 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Criminal that it didnt win an oscar magicninga
Anyone else hate the subtitles? SandersOnPPW
I'm Indonesian and I find this disturbing wuhugm
Oh, how we love to point fingers. . . to other murderers but ourselves. wzard999
Postscript about the neighbor whose stepfather was murdered TheViewfromNowhere
What messages did you take away from this film? TheViewfromNowhere
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