Film director Joshua Oppenheimer, who has re-joined the University shortly to lead our new international documentary film research centre, is currently attracting international press attention at the Berlin Film Festival (7-17 February) where his film The Act of Killing is screening in the Panorama Documentary section.

With Joshua in Berlin for the screening of the film is producer Professor Joram T Brink, who will be better known to students and University alumni as director of the PhD programme at CREAM, the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media. The world-renowned director Werner Herzog and award-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris supported Joshua and Joram in making their documentary.

Made as a Danish/Norwegian/British co-production, The Act of Killing is a highly controversial account of the year following the 1965 Indonesian military coup in which pro-regime paramilitaries killed more than a million alleged Communists. These murders went unpunished and the perpetrators are still powerful, influential people who can rely on the support of corrupt politicians.

In the film, these men proudly recall their struggle against the Communists and demonstrate their efficient methods of slaughter. Slim Anwar Congo and portly Herman Koto are delighted when the film's directors ask them to re-enact these murders for their documentary. They zealously set about finding actors, designing elaborate costumes and discussing possible scenarios. They see themselves as film stars who will show the world Indonesia's true premen or 'free men'. But eventually the film project gets these men to talk about and reflect upon their actions as they have never done before. Congo says that for the first time he felt what his victims must have felt. It begins to dawn on him exactly what he did to hundreds of people. The reconstruction of reality has become more real for these men than their actions originally were.

The film has already been screened at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals late last year.

In Berlin, The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Dalton says, “Brave, provocative and imaginative, this unorthodox documentary shines a light on one of the semi-forgotten atrocities of the modern era... The result is a fascinating film not just about Indonesia but more generally about the corrosive after-effects of torture, political corruption and genocide.”

Related information

Read Monday’s interview with Joshua Oppenheimer

Berlin Review: Joshua Oppenheimer’s ‘The Act of Killing’ Is a Constantly Astounding, Terrifying Masterpiece

Spiegel Online: The Act of Killing: Re-staging War Crimes with Indonesian Gangsters

View Professor Joram ten Brink’s academic profile online.

View the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM) website.

For more information please contact:
Professor Joram ten Brink
[email protected]
0207 911 5000 ext 4733

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