Herman Koto

review act of killing

Editor’s note: Our review of The Act of Killing originally ran during this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival, but we’re re-running it now as the movie opens in limited theatrical release. While everyone has experienced situations in which someone has upset us and we demand an apology, everyone also knows that you cannot truly force someone to apologize. The documentary The Act of Killing presents an almost social experiment exploring what happens when you give those who have done something terrible (in this case, killing thousands) a forum through which to tell their story to see if a new perspective changes their attitude. Back in 1960’s, Indonesia was riddled with “gangsters” and death squad leaders who persecuted and murdered thousands of alleged Communists throughout the region. The fear these unjust murders created is still alive today, with large paramilitary organizations like the Pancasila Youth continuing to grow in staggering numbers. The Act of Killing asks these former killers to make a movie about their experiences and then allows the film’s subjects to run the show from forcing friends and family to act in the film to selecting elaborate costumes.  The film focuses on Anwar Congo, a former gangster, who begins as a bit of a showboating caricature – a man proud of what he’s done and constantly talking about how he mirrored himself after the actors in the films he also scalped tickets for. Congo clearly has an interest in film and takes on the role of the director, explaining how the film needed comic […]

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