The Act of Killing set for market release by Drafthouse

Prodded along by producers Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, the disturbing documentary The Act of Killing is set for a limited theatrical release in 2013, with its eyes set on the 2014 Oscar for Best Documentary. Made by Danish documentarian Joshua Oppenheimer, The Act of Killing asks several infamous Indonesian death squad leaders to reenact their killings in whatever style they desire.

The film’s star(?) is Anwar Congo, an Indonesian paramilitary leader who, along with his trusty band of merry lunatics, participated in the mass killings of the anti-communist purge in 1965. Congo explains how he and his contemporaries were enormous American movie fans in the 60s. Although the failed coup by the Indonesian communists was what outraged the citizens into mass-murder, it was the communists’ decision to boycott all American films that made the genocide of around 500,000 people personal to Congo and his subordinates. Like most purges, it was not only the communists who were targeted; Chinese residents, intellectuals and anyone who had offended the mobs were also killed.

In most other countries where mass killings have occurred, the perpetrators have been arrested, killed, ousted or simply moved into secure mansions surrounded by wealth. Joshua Oppenheimer had the unique opportunity to document these murderers in a country where they have been made legends and idols. As such, their genocidal reenactments are big budget, American inspired affairs, the garishness of the performances at odds with the disturbing subject matter.

Although not set for a wide release, this documentary deserves a lot of attention. The Indonesian genocide of 1965 is now a forgotten page of history for most of the world. This documentary attempts to make it as current and alive as it possibly can.

Keep an eye out for The Act of Killing in 2013.

Are you a documentary film fan? What are your favourite documentaries?

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