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Act of Killing

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Editorial Reviews

Anwar Congo and his friends have been dancing their way through musical numbers, twisting arms in film noir gangster scenes, and galloping across prairies as yodelling cowboys. Their foray into filmmaking is being celebrated in the media and debated on television, even though Anwar Congo and his friends are mass murderers. Medan, Indonesia. When the government of Indonesia was overthrown by the military in 1965, Anwar and his friends were promoted from small-time gangsters who sold movie theatre tickets on the black market to death squad leaders. They helped the army kill more than one million alleged communists, ethnic Chinese, and intellectuals in less than a year. As the executioner for the most notorious death squad in his city, Anwar himself killed hundreds of people with his own hands. (c) Official Site


Product Details

  • Directors: Joshua Oppenheimer
  • Format: NTSC
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • DVD Release Date: November 19, 2013
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00EUEWQ4A
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #889,115 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Garrett Swink on September 5, 2013
Format: Blu-ray
In 1965 the Indonesian military responded to an attempted coup with the massacre of at least 500,000 people. They employed local gangs to help carry out these murders, transforming young idling street toughs into death squads who killed without abandon or regard to the political pretense of eradicating the alleged communist threat.

Anwar Congo is one of these killers, a flamboyant man with a penchant for the gangster movies he once stood outside scalping tickets to. Anwar has never been charged for his crimes. To the contrary, his atrocities have made him somewhat of a minor celebrity in his hometown of Medan, a large city in Sumatra. He believes he is responsible for murdering about a thousand people; mostly by strangling them with piano wire, the way gangsters did it in the movies.

Joshua Oppenheimer met Mr. Congo traveling through Indonesia while working on another project. He was struck by Congo's zeal in recounting his horrific acts like an aged athlete recalling his bygone glory days, acting out his crimes and providing little asides on the most efficient methods of killing a large number of people quickly and cleanly.

Oppenheimer proposed filming and financing re-enactments of Congo's crimes starring the murderer himself, his surviving accomplices, and his young lackeys. As inexplicable as Oppenheimer's proposition to help a mass murderer make a film is, Congo's decision to recreate his transgressions through an array of genres - horror, musical, war, westerns and, of course, gangster - is even more baffling. Oppenheimer's documentary, The Act of Killing, is the collision of Congo's bizarre scenes realized, chilling interviews, and fly on the wall observation.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Tommy Dooley TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 4, 2013
Format: Blu-ray
It is quite unusual to come across a piece of film making that owes so little to what has gone before, it has to be absolutely unique. This is essentially a documentary about the Indonesian killing squads from the 1960’s and what they did, but with them re-enacting their deeds.

The ‘gangsters’ are all Hollywood movie fans and so Director and visionary Joshua Oppenheimer invites these men to make their own films about what they did. They can use any medium they like. So we have exotic dancers emerging from the mouth of a wooden fish building. Actors parading in front of a waterfall pretending to be in heaven and a re-enactment of a village massacre, to name but three. Plus the obligatory scenes of torture and execution, with some bizarre make up in places. I do not know how he got these men to talk about what they did or to show in such graphic detail.

I often make notes if I am going to write a review, normally only a few sentences, but I wrote two pages on this. The main guy is Anwar Congo who shows us his Hollywood inspired garrotting and dyes his hair especially for the re-enactments. They all talk with disarming frankness about their crimes insisting that they, as gangsters, were always going to be better than communists.

They ignore the contradiction with Islam being into drugs, alcohol, mass murder etc. They still extort the ethnic Chinese and were content to be filmed doing this. They strut around with impunity and some of the scenes they get people to act for them and they all seem to be genuinely terrified, especially the children. One of them keeps dressing up as his women victims in a grotesque parody of what really must have taken place. There is some remorse but to say too little, too late, is obviously not enough.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Paul Allaer TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 29, 2013
Format: DVD
"The Act of Killing" (2013 release; 115 min.) is a documentary from writer-director Joshua Oppenheimer who sets out to interview/expose several of the "evil-doers" behind the mass killings that took place in Indonesia in 1965-66. As the documentary opens, we get to know Anwar Congo, one of those directly involved in the killings. Anwar and several of his croonies have decided, apparently with some coaxing and suggesting from Oppenheimer, to make a movie about the events from 65-66, so as to preserve hisotry and making sure everyone knows what really happened, including how exactly these killings were executed.

Several comments: first and foremost, in what kind of a world do we live that these mass-murderers boast about what they did in the mid-60s without any fear of apprehension, let alone any regret over what they did? To the contrary, we see Anwar Congo and his croonies making the rounds of various media, including a national TV show, where the host merrily goes along. Likewise with Indonesia's politicians at the highest levels. Here is a Indonesian Vice-President addressing the Pancasila paramilitary oraganzation that did much of the killings in the mid-60s, there is the Minister of Information showing support for the making of the film, and on and on. It simple blows the mind. Second, it must be that these killers truly have no inkling why Oppenheimer is making this documentary, as they are on seemingly very friendly terms and a first-name basis with Oppenheimer throughout the movie. Third, the re-enactments make for difficult movie-watching at times, in particular the further we get into the movie. This is most definitely not for the faint of heart, so viewer beware.
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