News / Arts & Entertainment

    Oscar-Nominated 'Act of Killing' Urges Indonesia to Face Its Genocidal Past

    "The Act of Killing" director Joshua Oppenheimer (right) speaks with his main character, Anwar Congo (seated, wearing cap). (AP/Drafthouse Films)
    "The Act of Killing" director Joshua Oppenheimer (right) speaks with his main character, Anwar Congo (seated, wearing cap). (AP/Drafthouse Films)
    Sarah Williams
    The bloody beginning of Indonesian President Suharto’s 32-year dictatorial reign is the focus of the Academy Award-nominated film The Act of Killing.   

    From the title alone, it’s clear this nominee for Best Documentary Feature pulls no punches in seeking clarity on the frenzy of terror that gripped the Southeast Asian nation during the mid-1960s.

    “Of course, it’s a huge honor for us, but much more importantly, it’s a really important moment for the survivors and the victims of genocide in Indonesia,” said Joshua Oppenheimer, director of The Act of Killing.

    “My hope is that the nomination will actually encourage the Indonesian government to finally acknowledge the moral catastrophe of the genocide.”
     
    Members of the Youth Wing of the Indonesian Communist Party are guarded by soldiers as they are taken by an open truck to prison in Jakarta following a crackdown on communists in 1965.Members of the Youth Wing of the Indonesian Communist Party are guarded by soldiers as they are taken by an open truck to prison in Jakarta following a crackdown on communists in 1965.
    x
    Members of the Youth Wing of the Indonesian Communist Party are guarded by soldiers as they are taken by an open truck to prison in Jakarta following a crackdown on communists in 1965.
    Members of the Youth Wing of the Indonesian Communist Party are guarded by soldiers as they are taken by an open truck to prison in Jakarta following a crackdown on communists in 1965.
    The mass bloodletting began in 1965-1966, as Suharto rose to power following the ouster of President Sukarno.  An estimated 500,000 people were killed. 

    Said to target suspected communists, the victims also included ethnic Chinese, as well as leftists working as trade unionists, teachers and artists.  The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has described the bloodletting as “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century.”   But it is a genocide that is downplayed in most Indonesian history books.

    Oppenheimer began the project with the intention of filming the survivors of the upheaval, and letting them tell their stories. But that quickly proved impossible.

    “The army found out what we were doing,” he said. “The Indonesian army is stationed in every village, and in order to monitor, and ultimately, if needed, suppress the population, they found out what we were doing, and warned the survivors not to participate in the film.”

    The survivors encouraged the film crew to seek out the perpetrators, hoping that their recollections would reveal the details of the deaths of their relatives.  

    It was a suggestion that Oppenheimer initially resisted.

    “I was nervous at first to approach the perpetrators, but when I did, I found to my horror that every single one of them was open, every single one of them was boastful, and would recount the grisly details of the killings, often with smiles on their faces in front of their families, even their little grandchildren,” he said. “It’s as though I wandered into Germany 40 years after the Holocaust, only to find the Nazis still in power.”

    The regime that was founded on crimes against humanity has never been held accountable.  In fact, former death squad commanders are happy to boast about their role.

    The film concentrates on one of them, Anwar Congo, who estimates he killed about 1,000 people.  He takes the film crew to a roof of a building where he killed hundreds, and describes a method he used to lessen the amount of blood. 

    In another scene, Anwar acts as the victim of a killing. We then see him with his grandchildren.  And finally, we see him coming to terms with the killings he committed many years ago.
     
    Oppenheimer believes the present Indonesian government, and the Western countries which welcomed the Suharto takeover, should acknowledge the terrible events of the mid-1960s. 

    “We’d like to see the Indonesian government acknowledge the past,” he said.  “But we’d like to see the U.S. government, the British government, the Australian government all acknowledge our collective role in supporting, participating in and ignoring these crimes.”

    The U.S. has formally denied supplying aid to the Suharto forces.  But the U.S. embassy in Indonesia encouraged and lauded the military’s actions in the genocide’s early stages.  Academics and human rights groups say it also gave the army the names of thousands of Communist Party members.

    The Jakarta Globe newspaper quoted Presidential spokesman for foreign affairs Teuku Faizasyah as saying the film “is simplifying a dark, complicated period of history.”  

    The film portrays Indonesia as a “'cruel and lawless nation,” Faizasyah said.  “It must be remembered [that] Indonesia has gone through a reformation. Many things have changed.”

    Not enough, apparently, for a group of 60 Indonesian crew members who opted not to list their names in the film's credits. Reflecting the sensitivity to the topic in Indonesia, an anonymous Jakarta-based co-director did not wish to publicly reveal his/her name.

    While progress has been made to address the killings in the 16 years since the end Suharto’s death, a critical report by Indonesia’s human rights commission (Komnas HAM) has been rejected by the Attorney General and the Supreme Court as providing insufficient evidence. 

    The Academy Awards will be announced Sunday, March 2, in Los Angeles.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    update President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: zickcrow from: Bogor
    March 01, 2014 9:19 AM
    why there isn't anything being said about the possibility that the U.S government, in this case CIA, are involved in the outrageous take over of Sukarno's government? By the way, who is Soeharto anyway before this take over? Then, he supposed to kill all the higher rank generals to fulfill the "Supersemar" letter, a letter which written in it a regulation that a general is allowed to rule over the government in the time of turmoil. Which until now the whereabouts of the letter is still a mystery. And what the U.S government gained from this deal? The right answer would be "too much". One of them is the gold mountain in Papua, in a city called Tembagapura. And also there's a "little" conspiracy in the naming of "Tembagapura" because it actually meant "Copperfield" which is a big fat lie. It is actually an actual mountain full of gold which now already turned into a deep valley, that also still full of gold. Do I have to mention the name of the company that owned that mine? I guess it wasn't necessary, there's only one gold mine company owned by U.S in there.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Take It From The Top: Stanley Jordani
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    May 17, 2016 5:01 PM
    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously. He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously.  He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

     

     

     

     

    Blogs

    African Music Treasures