SXSW Film Reviews: 'The Act of Killing'

Daily Reviews and Interviews

SXSW Film

The Act of Killing

Festival Favorites
D: Joshua Oppenheimer

History is written by the winners. Sometimes, like after Indonesia's atrocity-laden reign of terror during the 1960s, that's because the losers are dead. Texas-born Oppenheimer (with co-directors Christine Cynn and "Anonymous") dares former death-squad leaders even further: to re-enact their crimes in their own feature film, while he films a "making of"-style documentary. These are grifters, robbers, and thugs recast as national heroes. In their surreal fantasy, they portray themselves as Cagney-style suave gangsters, surrounded by dancing girls, yet the audience recognizes them as monstrous criminals. In that tension lies the film's enthralling, despairing heart. Seek no confessional here: A boast comes with no sense of shame. Instead, Oppenheimer gently lures these despots into the most dangerous of places: their victims' shoes. Will they feel guilt, or empathy, or just reminisce like old men swapping golfing stories? Those reactions reveal the true nature of this undeniably significant film: a human rights trial disguised as a searing and disturbing documentary.

Thursday, March 14, 8pm, Violet Crown
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)