Bay Area Premiere for “The Act of Killing”

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014 | Posted in Events by Eileen M. Thornton | No Comments »

The USF Libraries Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center is proud to cosponsor the Bay Area Premiere of “The Act of Killing” with the USF Humanities Institute.


“I have not seen a film as powerful, surreal, and frightening in at least a decade… It is unprecedented in the history of cinema.”

– Werner Herzog

Herzog is describing The Act of Killing, a documentary addressing the Indonesian genocide that also brings a universal message about the banality of evil, while providing a horrifically engrossing cinematic experience. This January, we offer the only opportunity to see this astonishing film in the Tampa Bay area, accompanied by a panel discussion by USF experts.

The film’s “hero” is Anwar Congo – a mass murderer. When the government of Indonesia was overthrown by the military in 1965, Anwar and his friends were promoted from small-time gangsters who sold movie theatre tickets on the black market to death squad leaders. These squads killed more than a million alleged communists, ethnic Chinese, and intellectuals in less than a year, while the international community stood by or tacitly condoned the killing.

Anwar and his associates were devoted Hollywood fans, who used gangster films as inspiration; Anwar preferred to strangle his victims with wire, borrowing his technique from a mafia movie. Director Joshua Oppenheimer somehow won Anwar’s confidence, and persuaded him and his friends to re-enact their murderous rampages, under the guise of allowing them to make a movie. In the profoundly disturbing result, the killers draw on their favorite genres – dancing and hamming their way through musical numbers, film noir gangster scenes, and Western scenarios.

The film is about killers who have won, and the sort of society they have built. These men have not been forced by history to admit they participated in crimes against humanity, but rather have become role models for contemporary paramilitary youth. The Act of Killing is a nightmarish vision of a culture of impunity.

The documentary has been showered with accolades at film festivals and showings around the world, and invariably spurs viewers to discuss its human implications, as well as its controversial filmic techniques. Our showing will be followed by a panel and audience discussion, led by USF Humanities and Cultural Studies faculty Bill Cummings and Amy Rust, who bring expertise in Indonesian history and film studies respectively, and Stephan Schindler (World Languages), who has a special interest in documentary films, especially those addressing post-conflict issues.

The film showing begins at 6 p.m. in the Oval Theatre, Marshall Student Center; light refreshments will be served at 5:30 outside the theatre. The event is co-sponsored by the USF Libraries Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center. For more information about the film, including the theatrical trailer, see: http://theactofkilling.com


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