The Act of Killing, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, in a Danish-Norwegian-British production, opens this year’s edition of the Fast Forward Human Rights Film Festival. This documentary shatters the boundaries of documentary film and it is already considered by many as primordial art, although at the beginning of its life.
The communist regime replaced. “Democracy” established. Death squads formed that kill and mass massacre all those keeping the communist values, all those different in any aspect. The campaign of intimidation and idolatry of the homeland fathers. Unacknowledged genocide and unprosecuted crimes against humanity. Ultimately, killers declared and celebrated as heroes. This is the basis for developing action of the film The act of killing by Joshua Oppenheimer, who spent ten years in Indonesia working on a story about the death squads that roamed during and after the coup by General Suharto. The result is a shocking and disturbing film in which the actors are criminals and history-makers who are, through their imagination, talking about events during the ’65-’66, in which they had participated. One is being guided throughout the film by Anwar, a national hero – a former perpetrator of genocide of a million people, who is provoked to dramatize his memories of the massacres. “War crimes are defined by winners. I’m a winner, therefore I can create my own definition”, claimed Anwar in the movie.
Interviews with victims with whom Oppenheimer was meeting secretly so their lives would not be put in danger remained in the shadow of the state of mind in which Anwar described the crimes, even faithfully displaying the ways in which he was torturing communists, members of China’s ethnic groups and dissidents. According to the director’s words, the objective of the film was “to cast some light onto one of the darkest chapters in the Indonesian, and global history of mankind. We wanted to express how much really blindness costs us, as well as cunning, and inability to keep under control the greed and hunger for power in a growing and fractious society”. In this manner, the director has developed a story that tries to explain how the extreme violence becomes routine and leads to a huge number of pointless deaths and to even more incomprehensable praising killers. Because, unlike the wars in the former Yugoslavia and the processes that took place in Rwanda and Germany, where war criminals at least were brought to justice before the court in Hague and Nurnberg, and where processes are being conducted at the national level as well, the Indonesian criminals were not prosecuted but have become celebrities. There were no trials and the victims were ridiculed, the perpetrators are in ministerial positions and they create a society that will celebrate them as heroes, wherein the primary means of their governing is intimidation.
Film The act of Killing is a nightmarish vision of scary banal culture of impunity in which killers are joking about the crimes against humanity in TV shows and celebrate the moral disaster with ease and elegance such as a dance act. However, just as such, this movie is leading us to understanding the horror that a human is able to commit, and leaves no one indifferent.
The film won over 30 prestigious awards, among which the most important for now certainly is the 2013 European Film Academy Awards – Best European documentary in 2013, and there are, among others, also the awards 2013 Berlin Film Festival – Panorama Audience Award, 2013 Berlin Film Festival – Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, 2013 Istanbul-Prize of the SIYAD jury (Turkish Film Critics’ Association).
Fast Forward Human Rights Film Festival, the first and one of its kind in Montenegro, aims, through the film, to contribute to raising awareness of citizens about the importance of human rights and their protection and improvement, as well as to the value framework that encourages harmonious relations among those who are different on any grounds. It is organized by the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) in cooperation with the Montenegrin National Theatre and the BELDOCS, with the support of the Canadian Embassy, and media sponsorship by RTCG and Vijesti.
Film The Act of Killing will be screened at the opening of Festival on Tuesday at 20h00, at the Montenegrin National Theatre, and the audience will be able to hear the author’s address by a videolink.
A complete programme of Festival is available at www.ubrzaj.me and the entrance to all screenings is free of charge.
Dragana Koprivica, PR of the Festival