The Act of Killing (2012)

 ●  English ● 1 hr 57 mins

Where did you watch this movie?

Embedded with fierce violence and haunting imagery, this hard-hitting documentary exposes the perpetrators of the Indonesian killings of 1965–66 in the present day; where almost a million people were killed. When Suharto overthrew Sukarno, the President of Indonesia, following the failed coup of the 30 September Movement in 1965, the gangsters Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry in Medan (North Sumatra) were promoted from selling black market movie theatre tickets to leading the most powerful death squad in North Sumatra. They also extorted money from ethnic Chinese as the price for keeping their lives. Anwar is said to have personally killed 1,000 people. Anwar and others like him are encouraged to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.
See Storyline (May Contain Spoilers)

Cast: Anwar Congo

Crew: Joshua Oppenheimer (Director)

Genres: Crime, Drama

Release Dates: 31 Aug 2012 (India)

Movie Rating
Based on 0 rating
0 user 0 critic
Music Rating
Based on 0 rating
0 user 0 critic
Did you know? Two of the world's most honored documentary filmmakers - Werner Herzog and Errol Morris - are credited as executive producers. Read More
No reviews available. Click here to add a review.
Supporting Actor
Supporting Actor


Film Type:
Documentary Feature
Colour Info:
Frame Rate:
24 fps
Aspect Ratio:
Movie Connection(s):
Followed by: The Look of Silence (Indonesian)
The project started focusing on the family of the victims, but a lot were arrested as Joshua Oppenheimer was doing the interviews with them. In that process he started meeting torturers, so he decided to refocus the story on them.

The Indonesian death-squad members shown in the film - who actually re-create real murders they committed almost 50 years ago - were paid a 'modest per diem' for their dramatic efforts.

Two of the world's most honored documentary filmmakers - Werner Herzog and Errol Morris - are credited as executive producers.

This hard-hitting film played for 52 weeks at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts from June 28th, 2013.

The co-director, as well as 48 other members of the film crew in 27 different positions, are credited as 'Anonymous' because they still fear revenge from the death-squad killers. The 41-year-old Indonesian who shared directing credit with Joshua Oppenheimer and Christine Cynn, could only wonder, 'How could these people tell these horrible stories so lightly and so proudly? You just want to challenge them right away. But you have to keep telling yourself to be patient, to let them tell the story the way they like. Because then we can learn something about the whole system of destruction.'

Some of the killers featured here are so-called 'movie gangsters' who said their murders had been inspired by their love of John Wayne, Marlon Brando, or Mafia and American B-movies.

An audience member after a screening in Berlin said that what director Joshua Oppenheimer had done was "like having SS officers re-enact the Holocaust." Oppenheimer responded that it is not the same at all 'because 'the Nazis are no longer in power', while the death squad members shown in the documentary are still being protected by the Indonesian government.

This documentary was chosen for the 42nd annual New Directors/New Films showcase in March 2013, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, co-sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

An early scene shows Pancasila Youth members collecting extortion money from several shop owners. It is not a re-enactment. During a masterclass at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London on June 28th, 2014, director Joshua Oppenheimer claimed that he paid back the extortion victims in full with his own money, on the same day of the shoot. According to him, he would stay behind, under the false pretense of getting the shop owners to sign release forms, while his crew accompanied the Pancasila gangsters as they visited other shops.

A companion piece to the film, 'The Look of Silence', was released in 2014.

This documentary won the 2013 European Film Award for Best Documentary, the Asia Pacific Screen Award, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 86th Academy Awards.

This documentary won best documentary at the 67th BAFTA awards. In accepting the award, Oppenheimer asserted that the United States and the United Kingdom have 'collective responsibility' for 'participating in and ignoring' the crimes, which was omitted from the video BAFTA posted online.

After a screening for US Congress members, Oppenheimer demanded that the US acknowledge its role in the killings.

This documentary is a Danish-British-Norwegian co-production, presented by Final Cut for Real in Denmark and produced by Signe Byrge Sørensen.