The Act of Killing

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer

Released: 2012

Title – “The Act of Killing”

  • Double Meanings
    • commission of the crime
    • act out killing
    • killing ideas, community, hope

The Opening

  • Images of Indonesia
  • Backstory (inter-titles)
  • No authoritative history of the killings allows the brevity of the inter-titles to create enough backstory

Theme of history & corruption

-Everybody already knows and yet there is no written history

-like Western Governments supporting fascist regimes

-pointing at things that everyone knows, but no one discusses

-an examination of a system built on killings and corruption

-people who don’t believe the words they are saying

Celebrity & Western Ideologies

– draws on the current trend that everyone wants to exercise their celebrity

  • film casting + the gangsters cast as they create and discuss their movie project
  • Vanity, celebrity, and self-interest is no longer sinful
  • “Bring me to the Hague” (Anwar)
  • Camouflage that is meant to be seen
  • Fake images created in service of celebrity & politics
  • Everyone is Faking/Lying to themselves
  • Re-imaging western films (gangster & cowboy films)
  • Juxtaposition – Western Culture & Indonesia
  • Beauty is more important than the “act”

Empty Images

  • allow the viewer to relax – an afterthought – no reverse shots – tableau

Non-Fiction Film-making Advice

Be really present in the situation to know the right question to ask

Wisdom of the snake: coil-up like a snake, then strike at the right moment

Story Telling

  • The audience’s understanding grows as the film progresses
    • film is bad at words, but great at feelings
  • The film is also aware of the quiet/inner story
    • Brought about in the “fever dream” (Bats in the sky)
  • When to introduce the inner-story to the audience?
    • Prepare the “soil” for the inner-story


  • 41st perpetrator that Oppenheimer filmed as he worked the film
  • The first shooting with Anwar was on the rooftop, proudly displaying his murders (1000s were killed on that rooftop)