“Startling. . . . blending the horrific and the absurd in a disturbing cocktail. . . . it destabilizes our sense of the boundary between make-believe violence and its real-world counterpart. . . . Repellent but also curiously fascinating, as Hannah Arendt’s observation about the ‘banality of evil’ is given a chilling postmodern twist. — A.O. Scott, The New York Times
Nominated for an Academy Award®, The Act of Killing is as dreamlike and terrifying as anything that Werner Herzog (one of the executive producers) could imagine. This film explores a horrifying era in Indonesian history and provides a window into modern Indonesia, where corruption reigns. Not only is the 1965 murder of an estimated one million people honored as a patriotic act, but the killers remain in power. In a mind-bending twist, death-squad leaders dramatize their brutal deeds in the style of the American westerns, musicals and gangster movies they love — and play both themselves and their victims. As their heroic facade crumbles, they come to question what they’ve done.
Visit the POV companion site for The Act of Killing to watch the full film online for free for a limited time following the broadcast (starting October 6, 2014), learn from the filmmakers in an extended video interview, find out what’s happened since the cameras stopped rolling and download a discussion guide and other viewing resources.
Share your thoughts and ask questions by using the hashtag #TheActofKilling.
“There is no easy resolution to The Act of Killing,” says Joshua Oppenheimer in a filmmaker statement. “The murder of one million people is inevitably fraught with complexity and contradiction. In short, it leaves behind a terrible mess. All the more so when the killers have remained in power, when there has been no attempt at justice, and when the story has hitherto only been used to intimidate the survivors. Seeking to understand such a situation, intervening in it, documenting it — this, too, can only be equally tangled, unkempt.”
The Act of Killing premieres Monday, October 6, 2014 at 10 PM on PBS stations. (Check local listings.)