After the government of Indonesia was overtaken by a military regime in 1965, more than one million people were executed by gangsters and paramilitary forces. Many of those killers are still alive today and in the documentary film, The Act of Killing, they proudly reenact the gruesome mass-murders. Josh Oppenheimer is the filmmaker who captured the incredible footage. Now too risky for him to return, he says, “Indonesia is a country where the military is still overwhelmingly powerful; where the government and big Western corporations use thugs to enforce oppressive labor conditions or to seize people’s land or to break strikes; and where there’s still political censorship.”
The film begins with a line from Voltaire: “It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”
When the government of Suharto took over the Southeast Asian country, the military and death squads for-hire went after their opponents — namely, communists. Those brutal forces remain in power to this day and continue to instill fear throughout the nation. It’s astonishing how forthcoming the perpetrators are in this film, until you consider that line from the French writer and philosopher.
The trailer gives just a taste of the absurdity.
-Ariana Pekary, producer