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The Act of Killing (2012 Documentary)

This is quite an incredible piece of work. It's quite hard to.fathom what or how the filmmaker must be feeling behind the camera since it's harrowing enough just watching the finished product.



The documentary-maker has travelled to Indonesia to visit the figures responsible for a military coup in which they killed thousands of people accusing them of being communists.

He has then asked these figures whether they want to make a creative artistic film about these killings they are so very proud of.



The whole enterprise feels doomed. Heck, even once they've agreed to make the film, how could the filmmaker hope to hide his revulsion at the events depicted? Why would the film even be limited to killings? Wouldn't the filmmakers inevitably find himself making disingenuous propaganda for a bunch of monsters.

What makes this work is the admiration of these murderers for American gangster flicks. It turns out that, even while performing the killings they had gangster movies on their minds. We are regular misinformed by a variety of figures during the film that 'gangster' means 'free man'.



The premise of 'The Act Of Killing' is that directing a film about the killings would inevitably make the killers think more deeply about their actions. In the role of director and creator you inevitably need to consider the motivations and feelings of the characters.

It must be remembered that the figures responsible for the massacres do not deny what they did, do not regret what they did and are actually proud of their actions, even while describing those actions as sadistic.



Surrounded by proud killers who gain regular praise for their past cruelty, listening to them relishing every gruesome detail they recall with smiles on their faces, the director must surely have been terrified. This film represents one hell of a risk and the way it paid off is extraordinary.

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August 2014

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