Wednesday, February 19, 2014

THE ACT OF KILLING - 1 nomination


Documentary Feature - Joshua Oppenheimer and Sygne Byrge Sorensen

The Act of Killing is unlike any other documentary I have ever seen.  In it, the executioners from the massacre of over 1,000,000 communists in Indonesia are asked to recreate their acts in a film portraying what they had done.  At the start of the documentary, we understand that these murderers have not only never been punished for their crimes, they are lauded by the people of Indonesia, and they are quite proud of what they did.  They happily recreate the best ways to decapitate a person, and lament white pants in a recreation of one of the acts, because of its inauthenticity.  

The film portrays not only acts of killing, but the acting of killing, and thereby earns its title.

So the executioners band together as community heroes to make a film portraying what they did.  In the occasional moment of self-awareness, a current leader of the party warns that the reenactments not be too blood-thirsty, because that would be bad for their image.  He reenforces that the agenda of murdering all communists around the globe is righteous, but that the appearance of the murders is what counts.  It doesn't matter what it was, only how it looks.

There are moments in this film that are bone chilling - the proud boasting about rapes of women and children and the eager demonstrations of the most violent of killings are only two examples of scenes that are hard to view and absorb.  

And then there is the palpable shift as the murderers portray the victims of their violence.  They flinch.  They start asking themselves if their acts were unpunished sins.  They begin to see communists as people and themselves as demons.  Experiencing their acts through their victims eyes begin to make a mark, and we see slight shifts that give us hope.

It is hard to say what impact this film will have on the citizens of Indonesia, but it is hard to imagine that it won't have some further impact on its subjects.  It's not easy to watch, not by a mile, but it is important to see this cautionary tale of mass murder and its long term impact. (as if we needed one)

As for the Oscars, it's hard to say if it will win, especially now that documentary voting is on the honor system.  It's a hard movie to watch, and it's long with some meandering parts that make me wonder if Academy voters will make it all the way through to its important climactic ending.  If it wins (or if The Square wins, which I consider to be the most deserving), we will certainly know that they did their jobs.

Haven't seen the film?
Watch The Act of Killing Movie Trailer

No comments:

Post a Comment