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The Act of Killing

Date: 28/06/2013

‘The Act of Killing’ is a ground breaking documentary film on the Indonesian Genocide. It goes on nationwide cinema release today.

‘The Act of Killing’ depicts a group of unrepentant former members of Indonesian death squads being challenged to re-enact some of their many murders in the style of the American movies they love. The film focuses particularly on one individual, Anwar Congo, whose initial enthusiasm for the re-enactments slowly gives way to outward expressions of unease and remorse.

When the government of Indonesia was overthrown by the military in 1965, Congo and his friends were promoted from small-time gangsters who sold movie theatre tickets on the black market to death squad leaders. They helped the army kill more than one million alleged communists, ethnic Chinese and intellectuals in less than a year. As the executioner for the most notorious death squad in his city, Congo himself killed hundreds of people with his own hands.

‘The Act of Killing’ is a journey into the memories and imaginations of the perpetrators, offering insight into the minds of mass killers. The film is a nightmarish vision of a frighteningly banal culture of impunity in which killers can joke about crimes against humanity on television chat shows, and celebrate moral disaster with the ease and grace of a soft shoe dance number.

The film has garnered extraordinary reviews on the international film festival circuit with Werner Herzog saying I have not seen a film as powerful and surreal and frightening like this in at least a decade, and Slavo Zizek writing that what makes ‘The Act of Killing’ extraordinary is … the level of reflexivity between documentary and fiction – the film is, in a way, a documentary about the real effects of living a fiction. Catherine Shoard of the Guardian said: It's often said of documentaries that they deserve to have as wide an audience as possible. This doesn't deserve; it demands – not for what it says about present-day Indonesia or even about its former horrors. But because almost every frame is astonishing.

To find out more about the film and national showings, please visit the 'The Act of Killing' website.

Watch the AHRC's film about The Act of Killing.

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