Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review: the Act of Killing (2012), From an Indonesian's Perspective

Director : Joshua Oppenheimer
Genre    : Documentary
Rating   : 95% (Rotten Tomatoes)

I have heard about this movie and the hype surrounding it months ago, but did not have the will to download and watch it, thanks to the endearing internet speed of Surabaya. But then Jack Harries recommended it and I knew I just have to watch it.

ermahgerd look at all the awards
 The Act of Killing is a documentary movie about the chaotic genocidal period following the coup d’etat against Indonesia’s first president and founding father, Soekarno, during the 60's. It is directed by Joshua Oppenheimer and nominated for last year Academic Award for Best Documentary.  Yep, the dark history of my motherland is now bared all for the whole world to see – well, the whole world who bother to see this kind of stuff. It follows Anwar Congo, one of the main executioners of PKI, as he describes and reenacts the memories of his past life as a ‘jagal’ (butcher) together with his old friends and affiliates. For your information, PKI is how people used to call the communist party back then, as well as marginalized people and Chinese ethnics. 

That’s it? Well, basically yes. Oppenheimer himself said that this a 'documentary of imagination' - we are going to see nothing that directly depicts all that murders and massacres, aside from Congo’s recalling, retelling and reenactment. 

The first thing that crossed my mind is now I know what German people feel. I know about G-30S/PKI (that’s how we call it – since it is started at September 30, 1965), we did learn about it in grade school, but like Pak Adi (one of the character in the movie) said, the history is told and written from the winner’s point of view. Back then, I only had the history book our teacher gave us. But then I grew up and started to have interest in history. I read a lot about World War 2, African Civil War, and other stuff, as well as movies, but never once it crossed my mind to open the history book of my own country. 

G-30S/PKI, there is no other way to say it, is a violation of human rights. It is cruel, sadistic, illogical, and unfair. It is basically mirror image of what has been happening throughout the world since the dawn of the humankind; one group of people think they are right, better and above the rest, therefore they have the right to judge, punish, kill and well, basically act as a god. I am talking about the people doing the killing here; in the grand scheme of things, greater reason may exists. But these people, regardless of what these massacres actually evolved from, definitely do not think that what they did is wrong. 

Now, years later, after the media are no longer doing their role to bias our opinion, we can look back with clean logic and know that it was wrong. But they can’t. They are standing in the winner box of the history and clearly do not feel like getting out anytime soon. Every sick thing they do is not only right; it is respectable, heroic and even honorable. It is just so disturbing the way they boast about what they did without even a slightest hint of regret.

Also, they are so stupid. Non-Indonesian might not know this since it is not recognizable with English subtitle, but when you are Indonesian and you have to listen to the way they talk and see the way they carry themselves … god. 

Especially the way they treat the Chinese ethnics. For all of you who don’t know, Chinese people have been the black sheep of our society since God knows when. Most Chinese people in our country totally fulfill their stereotype as hardworking, good with counting, and stingy people. They, of course, are rich as hell. Indonesians, of course, envy them. What did we do when we envy people for their money? Definitely not working as hard as or even more than them. We hate them, that’s what we do. And from the moment we hate people, all reason to  segregate, mistreat and banish them from the universe suddenly seems fair. 

Yay. Isn’t it awesome being a part of people like this.

You know what, I am Indonesian and I am fully aware of how outsiders perceive us as a nation. I used to be surprised and a little bit pissed off because well, I did not feel that way. Of course, we are not Netherlands-perfect, but we are doing well; I’m not hungry or being forced to quit school and marry someone 40 years older. But watching this movie, it hits me so hard that maybe my country is actually just as much of a third-world country as everyone think; I just do not see it because I have been living in a frickin buble.  

I thought my homeland, the place where I was born, is better than this piece of shit. 

But you know what, maybe I am wrong. Maybe my country IS better than this. Who knows right? I am feeling this way because I am watching this movie, and this movie is created by a director; a human. He took control on what he put in the movie and who knows if he told 100% truth. We all know the power of media. All that matter is everything comes back to the single individuals. You can’t just bunch people into one bundle of trash and throw it into the garbage. Nice people exist and even though they might never be able to fix a country, at the very least they won’t turn into one of those mindless criminals. 

The movie end with Congo being eaten by the nightmares of his past life and having a mental breakdown so severe he retches on the floor where he used to kill his victims. One thing I like about this movie is that the director is kind enough to put a human face on top of this unspeakable, shameful crime. Congo’s regret definitely healed me a bit from all those traumas.

Trivia: Joshua Oppenheimer is a foreigner but can speak Indonesian. He acts as interviewer throughout the movie. One of the co-director is credited to an anonymous Indonesian. In fact, most of the crew is credited as anonymous.The film is not granted release in Indonesia, for fear that it might provoke something in society. None of the people I know knows about the existence of this movie.

Spooky isn't it.

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