Friday, July 19, 2013

  • "The Act of Killing": New Film Shows U.S.-Backed Indonesian Death Squad Leaders Re-enacting Massacres

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    We spend the hour with Joshua Oppenheimer, the director of a groundbreaking new documentary called "The Act of Killing." The film is set in Indonesia, where, beginning in 1965, military and paramilitary forces slaughtered up to a million Indonesians after overthrowing the democratically elected government. That military was backed by the United States and led by General Suharto, who would rule Indonesia for decades. There has been no truth and reconciliation commission, nor have any of the murderers been brought to justice. As the film reveals, Indonesia is a country where the killers are to this day celebrated as heroes by many. Oppenheimer spent more than eight years interviewing the Indonesian death squad leaders, and in "The Act of Killing," he works with them to re-enact the real-life killings in the style of American movies in which the men love to watch — this includes classic Hollywood gangster movies and lavish musical numbers. A key figure he follows is Anwar Congo, who killed hundreds, if not a thousand people with his own hands and is now revered as a founding father of an active right-wing paramilitary organization. We also ask Oppenheimer to discusses the film’s impact in Indonesia, where he screened it for survivors and journalists who have launched new investigations into the massacres. The film is co-directed by Christine Cynn and an Indonesian co-director who remains anonymous for fear of retribution, as does much of the Indonesian film crew. Its executive producers are Werner Herzog and Errol Morris. "The Act of Killing" opens today in New York City, and comes to Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., on July 26, then to theaters nationwide.

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