Mass Murderers 'Boast' In The Act Of Killing
The director of The Act of Killing says his Bafta-winning film has had a greater impact than he ever could have expected.
Joshua Oppenheimer's documentary focuses on gangster Anwar Congo, who executed thousands of people in less than a year during the 1965 military coup in Indonesia.
He asked Congo and other death squad members to make their own film depicting their actions during the coup.
The documentary shows them creating their often bizarre film - and gleefully demonstrating their methods of murdering those they accused of being communists.
"Inside Indonesia, the impact has already exceeded my most audacious hopes," Oppenheimer told Sky News.
"The film has triggered a transformation, or helped to catalyse I should say, a transformation in the way Indonesia talks about its past.
"It has led the media and the public to talk about the genocide as a genocide, without fear, and it has led the Government to acknowledge finally that this was a crime against humanity."
Congo was one of the lead executioners of the Pancasila Youth - a right-wing paramilitary organisation, which today has three million members.
Those who spearheaded the coup are still in power in Indonesia.
"Every single one of them was boastfully recounting the grizzly details of the killings," says Oppenheimer.
"When the survivors and the human rights communities in Indonesia saw that, they said 'you are on to something terribly important - keep filming the perpetrators because anyone, anywhere in the world who hears this will be forced to recgonise the rotten heart of this regime that the killers have built and remains in place until today'."
The Act of Killing was nominated for two Baftas - Best Documentary (winner) and Best Film Not In The English Language.
It is also nominated for an Oscar next weekend in the Best Documentary Feature category.
The manner in which the film's protagonists recount their murders has shocked audiences.
"It is conceivable that the boasting is defensive, that these men have clung to a victor's history that they've written, justifying what they've done, glorifying what they've done, so that they can live with themselves and avoid the tormenting effects of guilt," said the Denmark-based American director.
"It's so they can avoid waking up every morning, looking in the mirror and seeing a mass murderer."
At the start of their criminal lives, Congo and his accomplices used cinemas in Northern Sumatra as a base for their operations and controlled a black market in tickets.
Many of their re-enacted murders are performed for the camera in the style of their Hollywood idols, or their favourite movies.
In one particularly harrowing scene, Congo demonstrates how he used a wire tied to a post to strangle his victims.
He said he came up with the method because beating people to death was too messy.
But over the course of the film - and after watching the footage shot by Oppenheimer and his crew - Congo's arrogance slowly turns to regret.
The critically acclaimed film is a fascinating insight into the minds of mass killers and is being tipped for Oscar success on March 2.
:: The Act Of Killing is available to watch with Sky's On Demand service.
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