THE ACT OF KILLING

Director:  JOSHUA OPPENHEIMER

Anwar Congo and his friends have been dancing their way through musical numbers, twisting arms in film noir gangster scenes, and galloping across prairies as yodelling cowboys. Their foray into filmmaking is celebrated on television - even though Anwar Congo and his friends are mass murderers.
 
MEDAN, INDONESIA.
When the government of Indonesia was overthrown by the military in 1965, Anwar and his friends were promoted from small-time gangsters selling black market movie tickets to death squad leaders. They assisted the army in killing over one million alleged communists, ethnic Chinese, and intellectuals in under a year. As the executioner for the most notorious death squad in his city, Anwar alone killed hundreds of people with his own hands.
 
Today, Anwar is revered as a founding father of the right-wing paramilitary organization grown out of the death squads. The organization's power is considerable enough for its leaders to include government ministers, and for its members to gloat over everything from corruption and election rigging to acts of mass genocide.
 
The Act of Killing is about killers who have triumphed, and the sort of society they have formed. Unlike ageing Nazis or Rwandan génocidaires, Anwar and his friends have not been forced by history to admit to participating in crimes against humanity. Instead, they have written their own victorious history, becoming role models for millions of young paramilitaries. The Act of Killing is a journey into the memories and imaginations of the perpetrators, offering insight into the minds of mass killers. It offers a nightmarish vision of a frighteningly banal culture of impunity in which killers can joke about crimes against humanity on televised chat shows, and celebrate moral disaster with the ease and grace of a soft shoe dance number.
 
A LOVE OF CINEMA
In their youth, Anwar and his friends spent their lives at the movies, for they were "movie theatre gangsters": they controlled a black market in tickets, while using the cinema as a base of operations for more serious crimes. In 1965, the army recruited them to form death squads because they had a proven capacity for violence. They hated the communists for boycotting American films - the most popular (and profitable) in the cinemas. Anwar and his friends were devoted fans of James Dean, John Wayne, and Victor Mature. They explicitly fashioned themselves and their murder methods after their Hollywood idols. And coming out of the midnight show, they felt "just like gangsters who stepped off the screen". In this heady mood, they strolled across the boulevard to their office and killed their nightly quota of prisoners. Borrowing his technique from a mafia movie, Anwar preferred to strangle his victims with wire.
 
In The Act of Killing, Anwar and his friends agree to tell us the story of the killings. But their idea of being in a movie is not to provide testimony for a documentary; they want to star in the kind of films they most love from their days scalping tickets at the cinemas. We seize this opportunity to expose how a regime that was founded on inhumane crimes - one which has never been held accountable - would project itself into history.
 
And so we challenge Anwar and his friends to develop fiction scenes about their experience of the killings, adapted to their favorite film genres - gangster, western, musical. They write the scripts. They play themselves. And they play their victims.
 
Their fiction filmmaking process provides the film's dramatic arc, and their film sets become safe spaces to challenge them about what they did. Some of Anwar's friends realize that the killings were wrong, while others worry about the consequence of the story on their public image. Younger members of the paramilitary movement argue that they should boast about the horrific massacres, as its terrifying and threatening force is the basis for their power today. As opinions diverge, the atmosphere on set grows tense. The edifice of genocide as a "patriotic struggle", with Anwar and his friends as its heroes, begins to sway and crack.
 
Most dramatically, the filmmaking process catalyzes an unexpected emotional journey for Anwar, from arrogance to regret as he is made to confront, for the first time in his life, the full implications of what he's done. As Anwar's fragile conscience is threatened by the pressure to remain a hero, The Act of Killing presents a gripping conflict between moral imagination and moral catastrophe.

I have not come across a documentary as powerful, surreal, and frightening in a decade
— Werner Herzog

To find out more information visit: The Official Website of The Act of Killing

 


PRODUCTION FACTS

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
Co-directors: Christine Cynn & Anonymous
Cinematographer: Carlos Arango de Montis, Lars Skree & Anonymous
Editors: Niels Pagh Andersen, Janus Billeskov Jansen, Ariadna Fatjó-Vilas Mestre, Mariko Montpetit & Charlotte Munch Bengtsen
Sound: Gunn Tove Grønsberg & Henrik Gugge Garnov
Composer: Elin Øyen Vister
Produced by: Signe Byrge Sørensen
Producers: Joram ten Brink, Anne Köhncke, Michael Uwemedimo, Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn & Anonymous.
Executive producers: Errol Morris, André Singer & Joram ten Brink.

Production Company: Final Cut for Real, DK
Co-producers: Torstein Grude, Piraya Film, NO & Joshua Oppenheimer and Christine Cynn, Novaya Zemlya, UK - in association with André Singer, Spring Films Ltd, UK.

SUPPORTED BY
ZDF Arte, VPRO, SVT, YLE, DFI, DR, Danida, NFI, NRK, Fritt Ord, Stavanger Kommune, AHRC UK, Westminster University, Media Development, Media Broadcast, Kudos Family, Stiftelsen Matriark, Nordic Film and TV Fund and Against Gravity.

AWARDS

Nominated for the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature

BAFTA - Best Documentary
Guardian Film Awards 2014 - Best Film
Cinema Eye Honors Award for Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking
Cinema Eye Honors Award for Outstanding Achievement in Production
Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Documentary Feature Film
BritDoc 2013 Puma Impact Award
Gotham Award 2013 for Best Documentary
European Film Award 2013 for Best Documentary
Danish Film Academy Award 2013 for Best Documentary (Robert Prize)

Festival Awards
CPH:DOX 2012 - DOX:AWARD
Berlin Film Festival 2013 - Panorama Audience Award
Berlin Film Festival 2013 - Prize of the Ecumenical Jury
!F Istanbul 2013- Prize of the SIYAD jury (Turkish Film Critics' Association)
FICUNAM, Mexico 2013 - Audience Award
ZagrebDox, 2013 - Movies that Matter Award
One World, Prague 2013 - Best Film
Geneva International Human Rights Film Festival 2013 - Gilda Vieira de Mello Prize
Festival de Cinéma Valenciennes 2013 - Grand Prize
Festival de Cinéma Valenciennes 2013 - Special Mention, Critic's Jury
IndieLisboa 2013 - Amnesty International Award
BelDocs 2013 - Grand Prix for Best Film
DocumentaMadrid 2013 - First Prize of the Jury
DocumentaMadrid 2013 - Audience Award
Planete + Doc Warsaw 2013 - Audience Award
Planete + Doc 2013 - Grand Prix of Lower Silesia
DocsBarcelona 2013 - Best Film Award (Grand Prize)
Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013 - Grand Prize
Biografilm Festival Italy 2013 - Grand Prize
Grimstad Short and Documentary Film Festival 2013 - Grand Prize
Royal Anthropological Institute Film Festival 2013 - Basil Wright Prize
Human Rights, Human Dignity Int. Film Festival Myanmar - Aung San Suu Kyi Award for Best Documentary
Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013 - Audience Award
Traverse City Film Festival 2013 - The Stanley Kubrick Award for Bold and Innovative Filmmaking
BIAFF, Georgia 2013 - Grand Prix for Best Documentary
Nordisk Panorama 2013 - Best Nordic Documentary
Yamagata Int. Documentary Film Festival 2013 - Mayor's Prize
Janela Internacional de Cinema do Recife, Brazil 2013 - Best Film
Bergen Int. Film Festival 2013 - Grand Prize (Checkpoints Competition)
Karama Human Rights Film Festival, Jordan 2013 - Best Feature Documentary
Ram Dam Film Festival 2014- Audience Award
Ram Dam Film Festival 2014- Critics Prize
Victoria TX Independent Film Festival 2014 - Best of Fest

Critics Awards
London Film Critics Circle - Best Documentary 2013
National Society of Film Critics (US) - Best Non-Fiction Film 2013 (tied with "At Berkeley")
National Board of Review - Top Five Documentaries
Vancouver Film Critic's Circle - Best Documentary 2013
Chicago Film Critics Society - Best Foreign Language Film 2013
Chicago Film Critics Society - Best Documentary 2013
Online Film Critics Society - Best Documentary 2013
San Francisco Film Critics Society - Best Documentary 2013
Southeastern Film Critics Association - Best Documentary 2013
Online Film Critics Society - Best Documentary 2013
Toronto Film Critics Society - Best Documentary 2013
Boston Film Critics Association - Best Documentary 2013
Austin Film Critics Association - Best Documentary 2013
Central Ohio Film Critics Association - Best Documentary 2013
San Diego Film Critics Association - Best Documentary 2013
New York Film Critics Online - Best Documentary Award 2013
Boston Film Critics Online - Best Documentary Award 2013
Kansas City Film Critics Society - Best Documentary 2013
Florida Film Critics Circle - Best Documentary 2013
Danish Film Critics Association - Special Prize 2013 (Sær-Bodil)

Nominations
Academy Award for Best Documentary Film 2014
Broadcast Film Critics Association 2014 - Best Documentary
Satellite Awards - Best Documentary
Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary
BAFTA - Best Foreign Film
Directors Guild of America (DGA) - Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentaries
Cinema Eye Honors for Best Director, Best Editing and Audience Award
International Documentary Association Award for Best Documentary
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best New Filmmaker (Runner up)
Los Angeles Film Critics Association for Best Documentary (Runner Up)
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association - Best Documentary (Runner Up)
New York Film Critics Circle for Best Documentary (Runner up)
Chicago Film Critics Association for Most Promising Filmmaker: Joshua Oppenheimer (Runner up)
Washington DC Area Film Critics Association for Best Documentary Film
Phoenix Film Critics Society for Best Documentary

CONTACT

General Inquiries:
maria(at)final-cut.dk

Sales Agent
Cinephil (Philippa Kowarsky)
18 Levontin Street
Tel Aviv 65112, Israel
Tel: +972 3 566 4129
E: info(at)cinephil.co.il
www.cinephil.co.il


Press Enquiries

International
Maria Kristensen
Final Cut for Real
maria(at)final-cut.dk

Sales and Screening Enquiries within the following countries can be directed to the distributors of the film:
US - Contact Drafthouse
France - Contact ZED
Canada - Contact FilmsWeLike
Netherlands - Contact Cinema Delicatessen
Poland - Contact Against Gravity
Australia / New Zealand - Contact Madman Entertainment
Norway - Contact Kudos Family
United Kingdom - Contact Dogwoof
Serbia/Montenegro/Croatia/Slovenia - Contact Tricon Ltd
Lithuania - Contact Grazina Arlickaite
Italy - Contact I Wonder Srl
Iceland - Contact Bio Paradis
Singapore - Contact the Indie Entertainment Company
Germany - Contact Wolf/Neue Visionen
Spain - Contact Avalon
Switzerland - Contact Aardvark Film Emporium
Portugal - Contact Alambique
Japan - Contact Transformer
China - Contact DDDream 
Romania - Contact One World

Festivals
115 min version:

Contact Anne Marie Kürstein
at the Danish Film Institute
kurstein(at)dfi.dk

159 min. version:

Contact Signe Byrge Sørensen
at Final Cut for Real
byrge(at)final-cut.dk