2013 Awards Circuit
The Act of Killing review
The 2013 Awards Circuit will be a collection of reviews of films that are in some kind of award running within the months of January through March. Not only will this prepare me for the big night (AKA Oscar Night), but it will also allow me to catch up with some of the critically acclaimed films I missed in 2013. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy watching and writing them.
Back in 1965, the Indonesian government was taken over by the country's military, they set up a military dictatorship. They then began killing millions of "communists" within the nation, and I put that word in quotes because its unclear whether or not the people were really extreme leftists or if they were people against the new government. Many people died under this dictatorship and many western governments supported this purging. The remnants of this dictatorship are still embedded in the government of Indonesia today. In 2012, a film crew went to Indonesia and caught up with many of the people involved in the mass-murdering of "communists." They challenged these leaders to make mini-films of their stories and see how their actions effect them today.
One could read that description of this powerful Best Documentary nominee and be openly repulsed. It honestly took me awhile to successfully wrap my head around this documentary and its content. "The Act of Killing" is not a movie that glorifies evil, its actually a near-perfect example of history being written by the winners. Its shows just how certain facts become true overtime when the people who won tell the story for many years. The movie doesn't glorify these men's acts, these men glorify themselves.
"The Geneva Convention is the world's morality today, but tomorrow? It could be the Jakarta Convention."
In the outcome of anything, whether its a war or a baseball game, the outcome of that match is always realized by both sides, yet the rest of the world believes those who won. During World War II, Hitler made tons of propaganda and had he been successful, we would have understood World War II a lot differently. "The Act of Killing" shows us what it would look like if Hitler did win that war. Yes, the result is horrifying. As the leaders of the former military dictatorship of Indonesia make movies about how he killed people, its sad, sadistic and twisted. Their styles span from gangster movies (which they idolized greatly) to musical dance numbers. As clever as these guys are, there is doubt about the underlining macabre hidden in this film's message. As I think about it, I am immensely surprised that this got a nomination from The Academy at all. There is no doubt though, that this is a powerful look into the minds of disturbed individuals and piercing reminder of what happens to a country of people after a great sorrow.
Easily the scariest part of this documentary was the devotion and dedication these leaders had in creating the mini-movies represented in the documentary. How these guys laughed at their old stories of killing was absolutely terrifying. As these guys watched their finished products, it was sad that none of them were phased by what they did, believing their actions were completely justified. "The Act of Killing" is a painful remind of faith and its power over people.
I plan to catch "Dirty Wars" before Oscar Sunday this week, but as of right now, "The Act of Killing" could win the gold this week. We'll wait and see.
FINAL GRADE: A