History is fucked up. There are so many fucky things that occured, learning about them all in school would probably inflect serious depression on the youth of the world and not lead to a happy future.
But that doesn’t mean we can ignore history. We have to take things that are relevant and have strict meaning to our world today. No one should care about a big village wiped out 2,000 years ago in Spain. That is not something relatable. But genocides over the last 50-100 years probably should qualify as important events to learn about. After all, if we ignore them, then the people who committed these genocides would live out their lives knowing they could do it again and never be punished. The Holocaust sucked, but the world is bigger than central Europe.
Military coups everywhere and lots of dictators and mass killings, especially during the cold war. You know, the one without the war? Tons of people died.
Like in Indonesia, in 1965-1966, where a failed military coup occurred, and then what was left over allowed fear to run the country. So street gangsters were able to form death squads that killed almost a million people. Which people? Communist people! And they also extorted Chinese people out of money to protect their shops. It was a bad year with a lot of blood shed and a lot of fucks not given.
In The Act of Killing, the director of this film goes to modern day Indonesia, to talk to these people who helped commit the atrocities.
Thankfully they loved to talk about it.
A documentary from these men’s point of view is already an almost insane idea. But the men involved are bragging about what they did, for the most part feeling no remorse and feeling like the heroes of their own life story.
But no, the director wanted them to not just tell their story, but to show their story. He provided material for them to make a movie about the killings, how it happened, how they interpreted it, so they can show modern people about their past.
So intertwined between their stories we have these people choosing actors, acting out scenes, describing torture, you name it. It was such a strange juxtaposition but it helped perfectly capture just how warped their own realities were, along with their own justifications for the murders.
The Act of Killing is powerful, and it is a surprise it did not win Best Documentary its year at the Oscars. I eventually did see the winner, Twenty Feet From Stardom, and it cannot compare to the same level of significance, both socially or historically.
I didn’t ever plan on watching this documentary because subtitles and I felt lazy. I eventually did so because a companion documentary came out last year, The Look Of Silence, and I before I get my reviewer claws on it I need to do my appropriate research. And hey, this documentary was phenomenal. It feels like a must watch and it is already three years old.
4 out of 4.