Nearly 50 years later, in 2012, Oppenheimer's documentary empowers and entitles these former Indonesian death-squad leaders to re-enact their mass-killings in any filmic genres they wish, including stylish Hollywood crime dramas and Indian romantic musical numbers... letting them actualize past monstrosities in the present.
So, what to say... the filmmakers, like in the wake of the 1965 military-coup in Indonesia, make the same coup (a cinematic-coup) five decades later, by installing during the time of production an indulging and accommodating relationship leading to a collaboration (and re-enactment – the act of killing) that serves as both self-promotion and self-confession to these murderers; it must have been an easy task for the show, because these men are feared to this day (in a scene, one of the assassin demonstrates how he can still extort money from some local Chinese), celebrated as heroes and still supported in many aspect by the actual government.
So, what to say... the weakness of Oppenheimer's movie is the film's alleged truth-telling; how could any form of re-enactment provide a substitute for truth? Oppenheimer's amateurish or ambiguous approach to film-making does not allow him to understand that 'truth' cease to be, and never is, the justification for a film existence.
You admire a work of art as a thing in itself, wherefore, a painting, sculpture, poem, or any other product of the creative arts, (especially those with strong imaginative or aesthetic appeal, like music and film), actually contributes or merely points to a quality of existence. Art things do not provide a substitute for it. There is not such a thing as truth-telling in cinema. Cinema is a language, and as such, Josh Oppenheimer's truth-telling can only be his-story telling.
Telling history! Why chose a half measure, why mistake the film for real life, when the filmmaker could have gone all the way. This could have been the brilliance of the film; bringing us face to face, like facing a mirror – the evil nature of mankind. The stories that "The Act of Killing" tells are unforgettable, largely unknown by the wider world, and need to be told. Nevertheless, the movie still comes away oddly pernicious and deceptive.
So, what to say... watch the film's ending. Manipulated by the directors (occupied in the search for an unreachable truth-telling), the ending scene of the movie shows the disgust an aged killer feels for himself as he throat retches and ass whistles while visiting the killing site in 2012. Was it another re-enactment? Who could tell? Oppenheimer doesn't want or doesn't dare to tell that to the audience.
What to say... watch the ending scene again, the way it is represented (as with other 'truth-telling' scenes handed out all over the movie): at night-time, a grey-haired killer gains access through the wide open entrance door of a store (once upon a time a cinema), the lights are turned on, no one there, upstairs there is the spot of the killing, the crime scene props lay there ready to be used...