In a country where killers are celebrated as heroes, the filmmakers challenge unrepentant death squad leader Anwar Congo and his friends to dramatise their role in the Indonesian genocide. But their idea of being in a movie is not to provide testimony for a documentary: they want to be stars in their favourite film genres — gangster, western, musical. They write the scripts. They play themselves. And they play their victims. The hallucinatory result is a cinematic fever dream, an unsettling journey deep into the imaginations of mass murderers and the shockingly banal regime of corruption and impunity they inhabit.
The Act of Killing is a rare example of a film that both works to expose a political injustice and has also been lauded for its cinematic inventiveness. This critical acclaim has given the 1965 Indonesian genocide a new audience both inside and outside the country. The goals are ambitious and the team are clear that the film itself can only hope to contribute to larger conversations that might make an apology, or truth and reconciliation commission possible. However it is already — in a few short months — changing Indonesians’ understanding of their recent history.
This film was a selection for the 2014 Media Impact Festival. Find out more about the film’s funding and impact in its full festival case study.Read more