Behind the Oscar Docs: The Act of Killing

Friday, February 14, 2014

This week we kicked off our annual series on Oscar nominated documentaries. We'll speak with the filmmakers behind all five films over the coming days: Cutie and the Boxer (Tuesday); The Square (Wednesday); 20 Feet from Stardom (Thursday); The Act of Killing (Friday); Dirty Wars (Monday).

Joshua Oppenheimer, director of the Oscar-nominated feature documentary "The Act of Killing", talks about his film about coming to terms with human rights abuses -- by the perpetrators. The film looks at the repercussions of death squads mobilized against "communists" in northern Indonesia in the 1960's.


Joshua Oppenheimer

Comments [7]

E from Brooklyn

I'm really surprised you didn't ask him more about his anonymous Indonesian co-director and the choice to keep the identity of many of the indonesian film crew hidden. WIth all the media coverage and award nominations, it's so important to recognize that so many people took a huge risk to make such a shocking, beautiful and telling film.

Feb. 14 2014 11:30 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

This is a truly bizarre exercise in film making. There were some interesting visual elements but the whole affair is clearly staged and selectively edited to make the political point of the film makers. I largely agree with their views but propaganda one agrees with is still propaganda. It's a clever stunt with no real depth, psychological or political.

Feb. 14 2014 11:29 AM

What does Mr. Oppenheimer think of the work of journalist Allan Nairn on this topic?

I would especially be interested in hearing the guest's comments on Mr. Nairn's criticism of U.S. Presidents, esp. Clinton and Obama, on the issue.

Feb. 14 2014 11:23 AM
Tony from Canarsie

"The Act of Killing" reminded me quite a bit of Bunuel's "Land Without Bread." Was Mr. Oppenheimer influenced at all by that film?

Feb. 14 2014 11:21 AM
Peri from nyc

I'm glad to hear from the filmmaker, because I was shocked by the film when I saw it in a film festival some months ago. I didn't understand why we had to see so much of the demonstration of the terror without understanding the history and dimensions of the crimes. Why didn't he want to contextualize the crimes more emphatically?

Very interesting film though, and difficult to watch. And I'm very glad that it has a big impact.

Feb. 14 2014 11:20 AM

The Act of Killing is one of the most powerful, troubling movies I’ve every seen.

A real life journey into the heart of evil, not in film clips and theoretical voiceovers but guided by the mass murderers themselves, cockily, even comedically, reenacting atrocities they committed, and for which their country continues to honor them. And then, in one of the murderers, a developing awareness of the human reality of his actions.

What we might have gotten from Eichmann and his cohort if the Nazis had won the war. This film is in a class of its own. It has stayed with me for the months since I’ve seen it.

Feb. 14 2014 11:11 AM
John from Fort Greene, Brooklyn

This documentary raises important issues. Whatever happens at the Oscars, I hope everyone will take action to oppose impunity in Indonesia. This impunity persists not only for the crimes depicted in the film, but also for later ones committed or overseen by Indonesia's security forces from the illegal invasion and occupation of East Timor to ongoing violations in West Papua.

Human rights groups are supporting an appeal - - from survivors for the Indonesian government to acknowledge the truth about the 1965 crimes and to apologize and provide reparations to the victims and their families. Go to

Feb. 14 2014 10:50 AM

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