Film reopens old, long-buried wounds in Indonesia

Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:35am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Andjarsari Paramaditha

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Bejo Untung was a 17-year-old Indonesian schoolboy when armed soldiers came to his village in 1965, forcing him on the run for years until he was caught, tortured and jailed.

A communist-led coup attempt had just failed, triggering a wave of arrests and killings that ushered in more than three decades of rigid anticommunist education and propaganda. The subject is still so sensitive it is rarely broached in public.

But now a documentary, "The Act of Killing," made by Texan-born director Joshua Oppenheimer, shines a light on that dark era, focusing on the death squads and torture that seem like a myth to the majority of the Indonesian population.

Oppenheimer came up with the idea for the film while working on a different project in North Sumatra and found many relatives of the Indonesians he was talking to had been killed or imprisoned between 1965 and 1966 for trying to form a union.

Most were too afraid to appear on camera to speak with him and suggested he talk to the killers. He took their advice and was horrified by his findings.

"I ... encountered the boastful and shocking way that the killers were talking about what they did," said Oppenheimer in a telephone interview from Denmark.

"That was for me the beginning of the journey. I realized, my goodness, how is it possible that the perpetrators of mass murder should talk loudly and boastfully and with smiles and laughter."

The film, which runs for nearly two hours and won two prizes at this month's Berlin International Film Festival, re-enacts several murders and features a member of a death squad.   Continued...

The opening of "The Act of Killing", a documentary made by Texan-born director Joshua Oppenheimer, is pictured during an underground screening at a theatre in Jakarta February 6, 2013. REUTERS/Beawiharta