Rated NR · 122 minutes · 2013

This documentary is one strange animal. Former members of Indonesian death squads, who killed millions accused of communism during their horrific regime, are asked to re-create some of the death scenarios they oversaw during their murderous days. The men re-enact death scenes utilizing various Hollywood genres (P.O.W. camp movies, gangster films, huge and odd dance numbers, etc.) and it’s weird and revelatory. Some of the men get obviously swept up in the performances; it is clear that their minds are racked with guilt. Others seem more worried about the authenticity of the scenes from a moviemaking standpoint. If anything, the whole setup results in some astonishingly open discussions about the act of killing, and the mindset these men put themselves in to follow their orders. It’s an uncomfortable movie, especially during disturbing moments like the re-creation of beheadings and strangulations. It’s also a fascinating movie on many levels, especially when the men try to rationalize past actions during frank interviews. You’ll never hear the song “Born Free” the same way again.
Director: Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn and Anonymous
Producer: Signe Sorenson, Joram ten Brink, Anne Kohncke, Michael Uwemedino, Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, Anonymous, Errol Morris and Werner Herzog


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What others are saying (13)

Colorado Springs Independent Counting down 2013's 15 finest films Some of these never played in local theaters, so you'll need to fill out your Netflix queue. by Scott Renshaw 01/01/2014
Charleston City Paper Director Joshua Oppenheimer discusses The Act of Killing Short-listed for an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary, The Act of Killing examines the massacre of an estimated 1.2 million "communists" and ethnic Chinese in Indonesia in 1956-66. But rather than exploring the topic from the victims point of view, director Joshua Oppenheimer lets the executioners and perpetrators tell their stories. by Colleen Glenn 01/15/2014
Memphis Flyer Heaven and Hell Gravity and The Act of Killing: the two best films of the year? by Greg Akers 10/10/2013
10 more reviews...
Chicago Reader The Act of Killing's theater of war In Joshua Oppenheimer's unforgettable documentary, Indonesian executioners re-create their killings for the camera. by J.R. Jones 08/14/2013
East Bay Express The Act of Killing The executioners' song. by Kelly Vance 08/07/2013
New Times San Luis Obispo Review: The Act of Killing Will Coviello on Joshua Oppenheimer's documentary blend about death squad leaders 08/25/2013
Gambit Review: The Act of Killing Will Coviello on Joshua Oppenheimer's documentary blend about death squad leaders 08/25/2013
Creative Loafing Atlanta The Act of Killing parses memory and violence Director Joshua Oppenheimer has made a surreal documentary of Indonesia's violent past by Andrew Alexander 08/14/2013
NUVO Movie review: The Act of Killing Joshua Oppenheimer offered a group of Indonesian mass murderers the chance to tell their own stories in 'The Act of Killing.' The results are horrible and mesmerizing. by Ed Johnson-Ott 08/08/2013
Chicago Reader Year in review: 2013 at the movies Year in review: J.R. Jones and Ben Sachs each pick their top ten. by J.R. Jones and Ben Sachs 12/24/2013
Indy Week The Act of Killing is a troubling documentary about mass murder There's little question that this is a landmark in the annals of films that document human cruelty and suffering, and yet my questions are beginning to accumulate as I think about the film and how it was made. by David Fellerath 09/18/2013
Portland Mercury Tales of the Death Squad The brilliant and brutal The Act of Killing. by Alison Hallett 09/11/2013

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