Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer & produced by Signe Byrge Sørensen (Denmark, Norway, U.K., 2012). In this chilling and inventive documentary, executive produced by Errol Morris (The Fog of War) and Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man), the filmmakers examine a country where death squad leaders are celebrated as heroes, challenging them to reenact their real-life mass-killings in the style of the American movies they love. The hallucinatory result is a cinematic fever dream, an unsettling journey deep into the imaginations of mass-murderers and the shockingly banal regime of corruption and impunity they inhabit.

The Act of Killing explores a chapter of Indonesia’s history in a way bound to stir debate — by enlisting a group of former killers, including Indonesian paramilitary leader Anwar Congo, to re-enact their lives in the style of the films they love. When the government of President Sukarno was overthrown by the military in 1965, Anwar and his cohorts joined in the mass murder of more than one million alleged communists, ethnic Chinese, and intellectuals.

Now, Anwar and his team perform detailed re-enactments of their crimes with pride, holding numerous discussions about sets, costumes, and pyrotechnics.

Their fixation on style rather than substance — despite the ghastly nature of the scenes — makes them mesmerizing to watch. But as movie violence and real-life violence begin to overlap, Anwar’s pride gradually gives way to regret. And we see a man overwhelmed by the horrific acts he has chosen to share with the world.

Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 86th Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences Awards; Official Selection 2012 Toronto International Film Festival; Winner 2013 Berlin International Film Festival Panorama Audience Award – documentary film and Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.

122 min. | In Indonesian and English with English subtitles.

Warning: this film contains graphic content.


Special thanks to Final Cut for Real and Drafthouse Films.

*Nominated for Best Documentary Feature, 86th Academy Awards, 2014
Q&A with producer Signe Byrge Sørensen follows the screening.

About the director

Joshua Oppenheimer (b. 1974) has worked for over a decade with militias, death squads, and their victims to explore the relationship between political violence and the public imagination.

Educated at Harvard and Central Saint Martins, London, his award-winning films include The Globalization Tapes (2003, co-directed with Christine Cynn), The Entire History of the Louisiana Purchase (1998, Gold Hugo, Chicago Film Festival; Telluride Film Festival), These Places We’ve Learned to Call Home (1996, Gold Spire, San Francisco Film Festival), and numerous shorts.

Oppenheimer is Senior Researcher on the U.K. Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Genocide and Genre project and has published widely on these themes.

About the producer

Signe Byrge Sørensen has been a producer for 14 years. She began in SPOR Media in 1998, moved to Final Cut Productions ApS in 2004, and founded Final Cut for Real ApS in 2009. She has produced documentaries in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Thailand, Argentina, Denmark, and Sweden. Sørensen was also the Danish co-producer for Steps for the Future in Southern Africa (2001 – 2004).

She holds an M.A. in International Development Studies and Communication Studies from Roskilde University, Denmark, and is a graduate of both The European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers (EURODOC; 2003) and European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs (EAVE; 2010).

Sørensen has lectured at Roskilde University, the University of Århus, the Danish Film School, the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and on the documentary training courses ESoDoc – European Social Documentary and ExORIENTE.

Amongst the films that Sørensen has produced include The Kid and the Clown/Klovn for livet (dir. Ida Grøn, 2011); Football is God (dir. Ole Bendtzen, 2010); and Letters from Denmark/Mit Denmark (dir. 10 Danish directors, 2006). She has also produced and co-directed with Janus Billeskov Jansen Voices of the World (2005) and The Importance of Being Mlabri/Kunsten at være MLABRI (2007). She was the post-producer on Jan Troell’s Everlasting Moments/Maria Larssons eviga ögonblick (2008), which won 6 national awards and was nominated for a Golden Globe.



Photo by Jonathan B. Ragle

WED – 2-12-2014 – 7:00 PM
$10 ($7 ASF Members)