The Act of Killing

  • Joshua Oppenheimer
  • Denmark, Norway
  • 2012
  • 159 min
  • The Visual Voice

Exploring the extremes of the human mind, Oppenheimer’s acclaimed film, which he describes as "a documentary of the imagination," earned him a European Film Award, a BAFTA and an Oscar nomination. More than merely documenting the atrocities committed by the film’s main protagonist Anwar Congo, a member of the powerful paramilitary organization Pemuda Pancasila, the film highlights the impunity with which he—like the various political leaders who also appear—can flaunt his role in the persecution of communists in present-day Indonesia. From 1965 to 1966, this witch hunt culminated in the mass murder of possibly more than a million communists, suspected communists and other opponents to the Suharto regime. To demonstrate how the atrocities have been whitewashed, Oppenheimer takes the unusual step of inviting Congo and his companion Herman Koto to enthusiastically act out their deeds in several of their favorite film genres—war film, western, gangster movie and musical—with accompanying explanations of how the executions were inspired by Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and John Wayne. The title, then, refers not only to the act of murder itself but also to the acting out of the murders. 


  • 159 min
  • color
  • DCP
  • Spoken languages: Indonesian
Joshua Oppenheimer
Anonymous, Christine Cynn
Signe Byrge Sørensen for Final Cut for Real
Executive producer
Werner Herzog, Errol Morris, Andre Singer, Joram ten Brink, Torstein Grude, Bjarte Mørner Tveit
Carlos Arango de Montis, Lars Skree

IDFA history

The Visual Voice
Framing Reality

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