The Act of Killing

When Sukarno was overthrown by Suharto following the failed coup of the 30 September Movement in 1965, the gangsters Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry in Medan(North Sumatra) were promoted from selling black market movie theatre tickets to leading the most notorious death squad in North Sumatra, as part of theIndonesian killings of 1965–1966. They also extorted ethnic Chinese, killing those who refused to pay. Anwar personally killed approximately 1,000 people, usually by strangling with wire.

Today, Anwar is revered as a founding father of the right-wing paramilitary organization Pemuda Pancasila that grew out of the death squads. The organization is so powerful that its leaders include government ministers, and they are happy to boast about everything from corruption and election rigging to genocide. A regime was founded on crimes against humanity, yet has never been held accountable.

Invited by Oppenheimer, Anwar and his friends eagerly re-enact the killings for the cameras, and make dramatic scenes depicting their memories and feelings about the killings. The scenes are produced in the style of their favorite film genres: gangster, western, and musical. Various aspects of Anwar and his friends' filmmaking process are shown, but as they begin to dramatize Anwar's own nightmares, the fiction scenes begin to take over the film's form, leading the film to become increasingly surreal and nightmarish. Oppenheimer has called the result "a documentary of the imagination."

Some of Anwar's friends realize that the killings were wrong. Others worry about the consequence of the story on their public image. Younger members of Pemuda Pancasila argue that they should boast about the horror of the massacres, because their terrifying and threatening force is the basis of their power today.

After Anwar plays a victim, he cannot continue. He says that he feels what his victims have felt. Oppenheimer, from behind the camera, points out that it was much worse for the victims, because Anwar is only acting. Anwar then expresses doubts over whether he has sinned or not, tearfully saying he does not want the memories of what he did to come back to him. He revisits the rooftop where he claims to have killed many before repeatedly gagging. The dancers from the film's theatrical poster are seen before the credits begin to roll.

Joshua Oppenheimer

Wed 6 - Fri 8 Nov Starts 6:00pm

Sun 10 Nov Starts 5:00pm

Running Time: 115