The Act of Killing
In The Act of Killing, coming to theaters July 19th, documentarian Joshua Oppenheimer adopts a novel approach to documenting death squad atrocities. He challenges Anwar Congo and other leaders of Indonesia’s Pancasila Youth paramilitary movement, who were behind the 1965-66 mass murders, to reenact the mass killings in the style of the American movies they love. They do so with childlike boastfulness of a kindergarten playground brawl, which conflicts violently with the memory of the actual murders that continue to terrorize survivors into silence. By inhabiting once again the moral vacuum that permits such brutalities to occur, be it in Indonesia or Iraq, the killers, and the audience, are forced to confront our celebratory glee in destroying those we deem to be “the other.”
Becky Garrison is a satirist/storyteller whose most recent book is Roger Williams’s Little Book of Virtues (Wipf & Stock, March 2020). Also, she edited Love, Always: Partners of Trans People on Intimacy, Challenge and Resilience (Transgress Press, 2015). Her six books include 2006’s Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church (PW, starred review).