PBS Premiere: October 6, 2014
Online: Oct. 7, 2014 – Oct. 21, 2014
Nominated for an Academy Award®, The Act of Killing is as dreamlike and terrifying as anything that Werner Herzog (one of the executive producers) could imagine. This film explores a horrifying era in Indonesian history and provides a window into modern Indonesia, where corruption reigns. Not only is the 1965 murder of an estimated one million people honored as a patriotic act, but the killers remain in power. In a mind-bending twist, death-squad leaders dramatize their brutal deeds in the style of the American westerns, musicals and gangster movies they love — and play both themselves and their victims. As their heroic facade crumbles, they come to question what they've done. Winner, 2014 BAFTA Film Award, Best Documentary.
The Act of Killing (120 min.)
This audacious, horrifying, boldly experimental plunge into the mind-set of murderers and the culture of impunity breaks so many rules of documentary decorum that it virtually creates its own genre: investigative improv, perhaps. Or, better yet, Brechtian nonfiction. Whatever you call it, The Act of Killing is a must-see. . . . A brilliant, powerful reckoning with the wages of history, mendacity and denial.
— Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
This feature-length documentary may be one of the most horrifying films you'll ever see, and one of the most edifying.
— Joe Morganstern, The Wall Street Journal
Startling. . . . blending the horrific and the absurd in a disturbing cocktail. . . . it destabilizes our sense of the boundary between make-believe violence and its real-world counterpart. . . . Repellent but also curiously fascinating, as Hannah Arendt’s observation about the ‘banality of evil’ is given a chilling postmodern twist.
— A.O. Scott, The New York Times