Review: The Act of Killing

FJ Rating: Renter

Cast: Anwar Congo, Herman Koto, Syamsul Arifin, Ibrahim Sinik, Yapto Soerjosoemarno

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer

R, 1 hr 56 min

“The Act of Killing” tells the chilling real-life account of gangsters-turned-death squad leaders in Medan, Indonesia.  After the Indonesian government was overthrown by the military in 1965, Anwar and his friends went from scalping movie theatre tickets to killing Indonesia’s so-called “communists.” Through dancing and make-believe gangster scenes, ‘The Act of Killing” captures the reenactments of these death squad leaders’ memories of mass murder.

This film was incredibly powerful and eye-opening.  At the same time, watching a film about a country whose people praised death squad leaders in the killing of innocent people, it was incredibly hard to watch.  This film took me back to a feeling I experienced the first time I read a book about the Holocaust; this uneasy, surreal feeling.  Sometimes, amidst the work day and watching “reality” television on my couch at home, I forget about some of the terrible shit that happens around the world. “The Act of Killing” brought me back down to a place of actual reality, not the kind you see on Bravo or E!  I thought Joshua Oppenheimer did a great job at capturing the reality of what actually happened, through the tellings of Anwar and the rest of the death squad leaders’ haunted memories.

The reason I rated “The Act of Killing” a Renter is because I would much rather watch this film in the comfort of my own home over a theatre full of strangers, due to the subject matter of the film.  Although I think the film is a top-contender to go home with an Oscar win for Documentary Feature, there are still a few of the other documentary features I need to see.

“The Act of Killing” is available on Netflix and On Demand (check your cable service provider), but there are some other ways to watch it listed here.

-FJ

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