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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 »
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4,207 ( 124)
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:

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

The Act of Killing 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

The project started with a focus on the family of the victims, but many were arrested as Joshua Oppenheimer was doing the interviews with them. In that process he started meeting torturers, so he decided to refocus the story on them. See more »

Quotes

Anwar Congo: Why do people watch James Bond? To see action. Why do people watch films about Nazis? To see power and sadism! We can do that! We can make something even more sadistic than... more sadistic than what you see in movies about Nazis. Sure I can. Because there's never been a movie where heads get chopped off - except in fiction, but that's different - because I did it in real life!
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 Peter Pan (1953) See more »

Soundtracks

Cari Pacar Lagi
Composer: Moh. Charly V.H.
© PT Trinity Optima Production
Courtesy of PT Trinity Optima Production
See more »

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User Reviews

 
HK Auteur Review - The Act of Killing
8 September 2013 | by hkauteurSee all my reviews

By omitting the historical context behind the 1965–1966 Indonesian killings and letting the Indonesian death squad leaders tell their own story, watching The Act of Killing evokes the Nietschean idea of 'gazing into the abyss'. That if one were to 'gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.' The Act of Killing is a deep ocean of ideas, constantly reflecting the human condition. Every scene was like a wave, with an entirely different idea, crashing over the previous scene and provoked a new thought in me. My thought train spiraled and branched off into different directions.

At first, I thought about the brutality of man. Then it went to how history is written by the victor.

And then I thought about the nature of cinema and storytelling. That in the act of telling their own story, the death squad leaders became conscious of their past actions through the task of having to present it to an audience. The aesthetic distance, interestingly enough, ends up being the distance these death squad leaders needed to truly examine what they have done.

And then I arrived at the nature of how extreme ideas in society prevail, despite of how illogical or inhuman they may be. That logic is relative, anyone can easily manipulate logic to justify any action. One can make anything sound logical to do whatever they desired in a given moment.

And like that, the film kept on giving infinitely and its themes continually deepened. The Werner Herzog brand of the 'ecstatic truth' is at play here. Each audience member will have their own individual experience of the film's ideas and themes, because the film allows it so. Director Joseph Oppenheimer never puts these men on trial and instead of burrows for something deeper to reflect humanity at its core. These men, like anybody, are just human. And I cared and became invested into their emotional journey through how Oppenheimer displays their humanity, which was perplexing at points. I had to remind myself that they were still mass murderers.

At a two and a half hour running time, the film is too long. It's hard to sit with such heavy material. There is a 115-minute theatrical cut that exists, which is 45 minutes shorter than this director's cut. Joshua Oppenheimer seemingly wants to cover more ground than needed and less definitely would have been more. I stuck with it alright because I was fascinated by the film's subjects, but it may test the patience of general audiences. That said, The Act of Killing is a great story told through subjects that I never ever want to meet in real life. It is an unsettling and powerful experience and is one of the best films of 2013, if not the most important.

For more reviews, please subscribe to my film blog at http://hkauteur.wordpress.com/


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