By: Henry J. Fromage (A Toast) –
In 1965-1966, Indonesia’s military junta waged an “anti-Communist” cleansing in which between 500,000 and 2.5 million people lost their lives. Forty years later, the killers have faced no punishment, and in the case of many have reached positions of power and influence.
The Act of Killing is a documentary that interviews some of the gangsters/”militia members” who performed those killings, using a bizarre ploy to encourage almost unparalleled frankness. These killers are given a creative budget and whatever film equipment they need to make a “movie” about their actions. It’s a concept that’s so crazily fucked up, it just might work.
Giggle, until you realize he’s probably forgotten how many people he killed
The amount of candor on display here is incredible… and chilling. The matter of fact, and seemingly remorseless, way in which these murderers discuss their crimes shows how a Rwanda, or a Holocaust, can happen. The human ability to justify one’s actions is simply staggering. Of course, it becomes much easier to do this when your rotten to the core national politics continues to glorify you for these crimes, and to this day if anyone dared to criticize you for it their lives would be in danger. Imagine if every December 29th was Manifest Destiny Day in the U.S., with the President delivering a speech thanking our forefathers of ridding the country of these dirty red Indians. It’s that disgusting.
The moviemaking conceit that filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer uses to ingeniously coax these criminals to face their crimes really only works on one of the two men he seeks out, Anwar Congo. However, it works completely, as Congo throws himself and his thug buddies into the bizarre Western/Gangster Flick/Musical he chooses to tell his story. The footage produced is surreal, gut-wrenching, and bizarrely beautiful, but more importantly succeeds in making Congo confront what he did.
He thinks he looks like Sidney Poitier, but my money’s on bizarro-Mandela.
He goes from delivering monstrous bon mots like “For massacres, pants should be thick” to breaking down on camera when it comes time to play a victim of one of, by his count, 1000 strangulations. When you see the ending of his “film”, in which he has an actor playing a victim give him a motherfucking gold medal and thank Congo for sending him to heaven, it’s easy to label him a lost cause, but the ending of The Act of Killing shows how that scene was a desperate last stand for self-justification, a feeling that slipped through his fingers long ago. A last visit to one of the sites of his murders sets him to dry-heaving, and providing a sound like a body desperately trying to expel an evil spirit. Nothing comes out.
This is the scariest fucking movie of the year, hands down. Witness the depravity of humankind from some of its worst offenders… in their own words and images.
Take a Drink: whenever somebody says “communist”
Take a Drink: every time someone drops the company line that the word ‘gangster’ comes from ‘free men’
Take a Drink: for every killer-produced “scene”
Take a Drink: whenever someone sports bacon face
Do a Shot: whenever a chill runs up your spine at the uncut evil of these people