The Act of Killing

dir. Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, Anonymous

The Act of Killing

dir. Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, Anonymous

The Act of Killing

dir. Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, Anonymous

The Act of Killing

dir. Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, Anonymous

The Act of Killing

dir. Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, Anonymous

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In this chilling and inventive documentary, the unrepentant former members of Indonesian death squads are challenged to re-enact some of their many murders in the style of the American movies they love.

Official Selection, Toronto International Film Festival 2012

After the overthrow of the government of Indonesian president Sukarno by the military in 1965, the country was overrun by marauding bands of paramilitaries who indulged in the mass murder of more than one million alleged communists, ethnic Chinese, and intellectuals — a horrifying record of atrocities that, ironically, has enshrined them in their nation's history as patriotic heroes. In The Act of Killing, director Joshua Oppenheimer and his collaborators explore this dark chapter of Indonesia's history in a way bound to stir debate: by enlisting a group of former paramilitaries to re-enact their crimes in the style of the Hollywood films that they love. Led by notorious former paramilitary chief Anwar Congo, this proud band of killers hold numerous discussions about sets, costumes, and pyrotechnics as they gleefully recreate some of the many murders they have committed, their fixation on style over substance — and their utter lack of remorse over their actions — making them mesmerizing to watch. But as movie violence and real-life violence continue to overlap, Anwar's pride gradually gives way to regret, and we see a man increasingly overwhelmed by the horrific acts he has chosen to share with the world.

A failed coup against President Sukarno in September 1965 claimed the lives of six army generals, but it was the army, led by then General Suharto, that emerged as the paramount power in the aftermath. From 1965 to 1967, Suharto presided over a bloodbath of leftists and suspected communist sympathizers — estimates of those killed in the purge range from 250,000 to more than 1 million. Many members of today's Indonesian elite members today are, directly or indirectly, related to the mass murderers. In 2012, the Indonesian human rights commission declared the 1965 killings a gross, state-sponsored human rights violation, revealing evidence of widespread torture, rape, and murder, and recommending the government establish a truth commission. In response, the government rejected the findings, calling the massacre "justified."

For more information, visit hrw.org/asia/indonesia