Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence

There is no overstating the greatness of The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary revolving around a series of the perpetrators of Indonesia’s state sanctioned mass killings of suspected communists in 1965-66. He interviews a number of the killers, many politicians and other prominent figures who were either witnesses or participants. But the central figure is Anwar Congo, an eccentric and disarmingly charming former killer. He is known by all as one of the most prolific killers. The film follows Anwar around during his daily routine of reminiscing with other former killers and attending prominent political events where he is treated like a hero, and during this we get stirringly impromptu moments where Anwar admits to suffering from nightmares stemming from a moral reckoning that seems to be taking a increasing toll on his mental state. Contrasted with this, Oppenheimer devises a scheme to get Anwar and his brood of accomplices and hanger-ons to recreate scenes of torture and violence against suspected communists in the style of popular Hollywood genres.

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