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A documentary about a forgotten Indonesian genocide of 1965-1966.
In 2012 a descendant of German Jews', US citizen and Denmark resident Joshua Oppenheimer released a film that shocked the world of documentary cinema. "The Act of Killing" won the awards of the Berlin International Film Festival, EFA and BAFTA and was nominated for the Academy Award. The plot revolves around people who belong to the modern Indonesian elite. They are the people who killed hundreds of people in 1965-1966. Oppenheimer asked them to film a documentary that reconstructs the events of those times. The result turned out to be rather creepy. So creepy that even the main hero goes nauseous as he watches some of the filmed shots.
In 1965 Communist Party of Indonesia was third by the amount of members in the world (losing only to the Soviet CPSU and Chinese CPC), the majority of the highly educated people were its members. 30 September, 1965 – the day when the Indonesia National Guard officers (who were communists' sympathizers) tried to execute a coup d'etat, but they were captured the following day (this lets us think that this revolution was organized not by the communists but by the militarists led by General Sukarno who came into power after suppressing the putsch). Anyway, after the failure of the coup d'etat there were no more educated idealists, communist party and ethnical Chinese in Indonesia. According to different assessments, 100,000-3,000,000 people were killed in Indonesia in 1965-66. Time Magazine referred to it as "The only good news from Asia" (the point is, anticommunist militarist regime of Sukarno was supported by the US). The murders were committed not by regular soldiers, but by street gangsters who worked for the government. Those gangsters are the characters of Oppenheimer's movie.
The most astonishing thing about the Indonesian genocide of those years is that unlike the Jewish or Armenian genocide, nobody remembers it, and doesn't even want to, actually. Moreover, gangsters who killed hundreds, thousands of people are seen as heroes in the modern Indonesian society as they were the ones who cleared the country of the "communist pest". One of the main characters of the movie is the Vice-minister of Youth and Tourism, another one is the main editor of the regional paper, the third one is a millionaire. They are on TV, they speak in front of the youngsters and proudly tell them about their "feats".
The shots of one of such speeches can be found in "The Act of Killing": the characters tell the members of a youth organization "Pemuda Pancasila" to act like they did in the 1960s. "Pemuda Pancasila", by the way, is a semi-military gang that has a right to kill and rob anyone who isn't loyal enough to the regime. There are about 3 million members in the organization.
The producer of the film Werner Herzog said that this is the most horrifying movie he'd ever seen. Oppenheimer's creation is scary, disgusting and amazing at the same time. This is 2 hours and 40 minutes of complete "sur": one old man changes into a pregnant woman, another one pretends to kill him; respected people show the variety of means to torture and kill – the ones they are particularly proud of, e.g. strangling someone with a fishing-line, thus having "less blood out". Those gangsters were all obsessed with Hollywood in 1960s, so when they committed real murders, they tried to look like movie gangsters and were really angry at the communists for banning almost every American film.
If you are ready to see a documentary about old men who are respected for killing, raping and tearing to pieces hundreds of people 50 years ago, watch "The Act of Killing". This is a story about a literally unbelievable human brutality. If you see the film, you won't be able to forget it.
By the way, the second part of Oppenheimer's Indonesian dilogy's second part – "The Look of Silence" – is to be shown during the Venice Film Festival in 2014.