Archive Cinema City 2013.

The Act of Killing

Genre: Documentary
Country: Denmark, Norway, UK
Year: 2012
Duration: 159 min

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer

Programme selection: Beldocs @ Cinema City

Original language: Indonesian, English
Subtitles: Serbian


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. They helped the army kill more than one million alleged communists, ethnic Chinese, and intellectuals in less than a year. As the executioner for the most notorious death squad in his city, Anwar himself killed hundreds of people with his own hands.

Today, Anwar is revered as a founding father of a right-wing paramilitary organization that grew out of the death squads. The organization is so powerful that its leaders include government ministers, and they are happy to boast about everything from corruption and election rigging to acts of genocide.

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 crimes against humanity, yet 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.


Berlinale Panorama Audience Award for Best Documentary 2013
Berlinale Panorama Prize of the Ecumenical Jury 2013
Turkish Film Critics Prize – Istanbul Independent Film Festival 2013
Grand Prix du Documentaire – Festival de Cinéma Valenciennes 2013
2013 Danish Academy Award for Best Documentary (Robert Prize)
Special Prize of the Danish Film Critics Association – Sær Bodil
Grand Prize – CPH:DOX 2012
Audience Award for Best Feature Film – FICUNAM Mexico City 2013
Best Film – Prague One World Festival 2013
Movies That Matter Award – ZagrebDox 2013
Gilda Vieira de Mello Prize – Geneva International Human Rights Film Festival 2013