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2,609 Ratings

The Act of Killing

Denmark, Norway, 2012


This award-winning documentary blends realty and fantasy as a film crew propositions a group of former Indonesian death squad leaders to recreate their shocking mass killings in lavish, opulent detail.

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The Act of Killing Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn

Awards & Festivals

Berlin International Film Festival

2013 | 2 wins including: Prize of the Ecumenical Jury (Panorama Dokumente)

Academy Awards

2014 | Nominee: Best Documentary, Features

What makes the three-hour-long The Act Of Killing disturbing and yet engaging is the way the story is told… The film asks [the killers] to re-enact their homicidal practices for the camera, and pushes the blood-drunk further into the realm of phantasmagoria, complete with musical numbers and horror soap operas. The effect is like watching two murderers in a confession box at an asylum.
February 11, 2016
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Oppenheimer calls his film “a documentary of the imagination.” I’d call it a brilliant intervention, and it’s no accident that two other pioneering interveners, Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, executive produced both The Act of Killing and Oppenheimer’s upcoming companion piece, The Look of Silence.
June 24, 2015
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While Oppenheimer’s film has been praised for its self-reflexive demonstration of cinema’s tortured relationship with truth – self-reflexivity having long ago been elevated as the hallmark of cinematic sophistication – its meta-cinematic gestures in fact serve the opposite purpose, underscoring the deceptions of fiction film in order to valorize the naive documentary image.
September 01, 2014
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What are people saying?

  • El Biffo's rating of the film The Act of Killing

    "God hates communists. That's why he's made this film so beautiful." OK, I guess that explains why they are so proud of killing. But can someone please explain to me the meaning of dancing in the mouth of the giant fish?

  • Duncan Gray's rating of the film The Act of Killing

    An astounding documentary, making historical pain more immediate (or "real") through pure incongruity and raising the cinema ethics question of who exploits who. Lest you think that this is tribute to the Power Of Movies, note that they clearly fall short and are also part of the problem. It would be absurd enough for comedy, which is one reason it's among the most unshakably mournful political films I've ever seen.

  • Huey McEvoy's rating of the film The Act of Killing

    "I did this to so many people, Josh. Is it all coming back to me?" Oppenheimer's jawdropping film raises such complex questions about evil, guilt, culpability, empathy, voyeurism, remorse, war, PTSD, groupthink, ego, morality, free will, psychology, psychopathy, sociology, tribalism, nationalism - and even documentary film making itself - that it's almost impossible to take it all in after a single viewing. (4.5)

  • FilmEdie's rating of the film The Act of Killing

    Less a documentary about the Indonesian genocide than a fascinating meditation on social psychology. The focus on a few individuals seemed mostly to highlight the more root/structural issue of cultures of impunity. With chilling implications, since none of us are exempt from those... (see e.g. U.S. refusal to admit backing said genocide). Innovative structure & gorgeous colour. Director's cut dragged on too long. 3.5

  • Jason's rating of the film The Act of Killing

    The film discovers a modality by necessity, as there was not previously one that was adequate. Conceptually it is so obviously a triumph of vision that a good deal of work would have been necessary to skunk the project. Its world is like something out of a hallucination. It is history (and reckoning) as agonizing psychodrama. Its murky moral terrain boggles any kind of reading. We do not have the tools to read this.

  • anarresti's rating of the film The Act of Killing

    Everything I say or write about this film will be incomplete. For years, I suspect. I haven't digested it, yet. Maybe I never will. Like a portuguese jewish comentator said about Hitler, in a debate about the 2004 Downfall film, the horror is that he (Hitler) was not a monster, he was a normal person, like you and me. Normal people do monstrous things. And if a society makes killing normal everything turns insane.

  • msmichel's rating of the film The Act of Killing

    A spellbinding and truly horrifying documentary from Oppenheimer and Cynn revisiting the mass killings of supposed Communists in sixties and seventies Indonesia through the eyes of mainlyone of the paid executioners. The director's vision is to recreate these scenes of murder and torture sometimes in quite cinematic tableau which only sees the lack of remorse of the participants shine more brightly. Fascinating.

  • MarcelVonPure's rating of the film The Act of Killing

    "War crimes are dictated by the winners". It's a line that should be retched instead of spoken aloud, but that's only because it is horrifyingly, begrudgingly true! It's as if the nazis had won the war and they are STILL parading around and celebrating the holocaust with impunity - and YES, maybe *these* men do gag on the occasional karmic furball during their lonelier hours, but...they are still dancing w/ impunity.

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