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The Act of Killing (2012)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Crime | 8 November 2012 (Denmark)
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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 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 Yapto Soerjosoemarno ... Himself - Leader of Pancasila Youth
Safit Pardede Safit Pardede ... Himself - Local Paramilitary Leader
Jusuf Kalla Jusuf Kalla ... Himself - Vice President of Indonesia
Adi Zulkadry Adi Zulkadry ... Himself - Fellow Executioner in 1965
Soaduon Siregar Soaduon Siregar ... Himself - Journalist
Suryono Suryono ... Himself - Anwar's Neighbor
Haji Marzuki Haji Marzuki ... Himself - Member of North Sumatra Parliament (as Marzuki)
Haji Anif 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:

"Unprecedented in the history of cinema" - Werner Herzog See more »

Genres:

Documentary | Crime

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, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$486,919

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$722,274
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

Some of the killers featured here are so-called 'movie gangsters' who said their murders had been inspired by their love of John Wayne, Marlon Brando, or Mafia and American B-movies. See more »

Quotes

Anwar Congo: What I regret... Honestly, I never expected it would look this awful. My friends kept telling me to act more sadistic, but then I saw the women and children. Imagine those children's future. They've been tortured. Now their houses will be burned down. What future do they have? They will curse us for the rest of their lives. This was so very, very, very...
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 159-min version is the director's cut. It is the only version being released in Indonesia, and was released alongside the 115-min version in Danish cinemas. Compared to the shorter version, the 159-minute version reveals more of the filmmaking method and also explores the role of propaganda cinema in maintaining anti-communist fervor. The fiction scenes take over the film's form to the extent that ultimately the boundaries between fiction and documentary blur. In the final act, Anwar's descent in the long version is longer and more complex. See more »

Connections

References Born Free (1966) See more »

Soundtracks

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

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User Reviews

 
A Special Film that Has to be Seen to be Believed
25 October 2013 | by frankenbenzSee all my reviews

After over one-hundred years of cinema, it's pretty rare to come across a film unlike anything you've seen before, let alone one that begs the question: how the hell did they pull that off? Even though blockbuster films like Gravity try to do this by taking us to great heights (no pun intended) through technological / cinematographic advancements, we somehow end up bored with the result. Who really cares how long and complicated your opening take is if it feels like it lives inside the brain of a computer? Perhaps fiction has been done to death, perhaps we've advanced the tech behind fictional filmmaking so far that it's completely lost touch with reality. This is probably why, today, documentaries have never been more relevant and more capable of blowing your mind. The advantage documentaries have over fiction is that they can show us things so unbelievable they could only exist in the real world. Truth is truly stranger than fiction.

Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing is a very special documentary. What begins as a glimpse into the lives of a handful of former death squad leaders, Oppenheimer then invites them to help produce fictional recreations of their killings, recreations mimicking the style of the murderers' favourite Hollywood movies. As the fiction overtakes the lives of its subjects, The Act of Killing becomes what Oppenheimer has described as "a documentary of the imagination." Never before has such nightmarish and surreal terrain been excavated, revealing a chilling indifference to nothing less than unpunished crimes against humanity.

If you've ever tried to imagine what a Nazi conquered world would be like, this documentary might be closest thing we'll ever have to actually knowing. What we discover is that when history is written by the victors, we see something very frightening emerge: acceptance of brutality as not only necessary, but heroic. Aware of how it's so much easier to see the contents of a fishbowl when staring at it from a distance, The Act of Killing positions its viewers in a way that forces us to question our own perspective on how and why things really are in the world, not in the way we've been brainwashed to believe. The murderous thugs Oppenheimer immortalizes are not behind bars, or on trial for war crimes, or any of their crimes; these men are heroes in their native Indonesia, on parade to be adored by their hero-worshipping countrymen and women.

Considering Oppenheimer cast his subjects inside a surreal, hyper-stylized world of fictional recreations, it's impossible to argue The Act of Killing isn't manipulative. But it's the lengths Oppenheimer goes to -- the soaring heights of absurdity these staged recreations go to -- that confirm, whatever moral compass exists, it is not being directed by someone with a hidden agenda. Ultimately, the fictitious pageantry calls attention to how difficult it is for someone to have perspective when they're lost within a concrete belief system cemented by victory, history, and the applause of an entire nation. If you think you wouldn't have been swept away by the mass-hysteria/nationalism excited by the Nazis pre-WW2, then you're lying to yourself as much as you may have been for having bought into Obama's movement for 'Change.' I know I'm guilty of the latter.

Damning as it is, Oppenheimer's surreal world also acts as an arena for 'art' therapy, treatment both logical and plausible for men who've been playing roles their whole lives. Decades ago these gangsters were young, ego-driven, power hungry men who performed the most horrible acts imaginable...and now as old men, they've perfected their roles as heroic cowboys proud of having defended the homestead. But once the act is over and the veil lifted, these men are revealed to be victims of their own acts, sickened by what they've done, who they are, and the 'act' they've clung to in order to preserve their own sanity. To gain access to the minds of characters so repulsive and sinister is something even the best screenwriters couldn't fathom pulling off; to be able to humanize them, and make them sympathetic is a feat of filmmaking unlike anything I've ever watched before.

Something else I've never seen before is a film with one "anonymous" credit, let alone dozens of them, including one given to a co-director. The gravity of this reminds us the killings proudly re-enacted by the film's subjects are not just nostalgic, but very much a part of the today's way of doing business. By the time the credits scroll we realize the real culprit here, the one we cannot pardon, is Capitalism.

The Act of Killing depicts capitalism at its darkest hour, in a special place where brutality and savagery are necessary and applauded. Immersing us in such a dark place, The Act of Killing shows us how difficult it is to identify the outlines of our own faces once the definitions of "truth" and "justice" are mutated beyond recognition. History asks us: How far removed are we from these crimes? Was it not our governments who supported these atrocities? Whether we knew it or not, we collectively turned blind eyes, condoning a genocide that took the lives of over one million people. These are the realizations we should be most sickened and disturbed by, but are we? We enabled these men to kill so who are we to judge, and if the results coincide with our politics, do we even care?

www.eattheblinds.com


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