The Austin Chronicle

DVD Watch: 'The Act of Killing'

By Monica Riese, January 7, 2014, 11:34am, Picture in Picture

One of the most important festival films of 2013 is out on DVD and Blu-ray today for you to bring home and try to process again.

The Act of Killing, which premiered in Austin at South by Southwest last March and hit theatres here in August, chronicles the stories of two former death-squad leaders in Indonesia, including Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry's reenactments of the mass executions. Documentarian Joshua Oppenheimer said: "The method was not an elaborate lure to get them to open up. The method was a response to their openness."

It's a complicated film, and that's partially the point; Oppenheimer wanted to steer clear of "reductionist" histories.

"You can say what they did was evil, but you must separate that from the human being, who is much more complex than that. … If anybody asks me, 'Isn't it wrong to humanize them?' there's a very simple answer. They are human. If we want to understand how human beings do these things, why we do them, what it means when we do them, we have to approach them as humans."

There's a reason Killing was shortlisted for an Oscar and made it handily onto Marc Savlov's top 10 list of the year.

The DVD and Blu-ray editions ($19.99 each) are two-disc sets with almost eight hours of content, including director commentary, deleted scenes, and more; it's also available for download for $14.99. The film is being released by Drafthouse Films, which had a tremendously busy year in 2013, including the acquisitions of The Visitor, Ms. 45, and more.

Check out the trailer below, and read our interview with Oppenheimer here.

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