Have you ever done something terrible? Most people have, to a greater or lesser extent. Feel free to begin a confessional in the comments section. (I'm tempted to say, “We're only human,” but that always brings to mind that scene in The United States of Leland when Don Cheadle says that to Ryan Gosling, who responds that it's funny how people only say that when they've done something bad; no one ever says that about someone who saved people from a burning building.) How do you process what happened? Maybe you're perfectly ok with it. If someone asked you to recreate this event, how would that manifest itself? Of course, if you don't think what you did was terrible, then we'd be talking about different things – and from here it's an easy jump to a full-blown ethics debate.
So, let's talk about genocide. Not much subjectivity there. We are concerned today with Anwar Congo – a national hero in Indonesia. In 1965 and 1966 he led death squads which killed over half a million people in an anti-Communist purge. Today, he's living the good life. So, filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer, along with co-directors Christine Cynn and another who chooses to remain anonymous, invite Anwar to recreate the killings for the camera, in whatever style he chooses. The result? Musical numbers, noirish gangster scenes, homages to the Western genre. The resulting documentary is entitled The Act of Killing, and it is, by all accounts, a strange, surreal piece of nonfiction cinema.
The Act of Killing is currently playing at Village 8, located at 4014 Dutchmans Lane, as part of the Louisville Exclusives series. It is scheduled to run until Thursday, September 19, but may be subject to extension. Full details can be found at the theater website.
Image: Internet Movie Database