This Oscar-nominated documentary, executive produced by Werner Herzog, Errol Morris and André Singer, finds unrepentant former members of Indonesian death squads challenged to re-enact some of their many murders in the style of the movie genres they love.
In the 1960s, Anwar Congo was a leader in Indonesia’s pro-regime paramilitary The Pancasila Youth. Along with his band of dedicated followers, he was among those who participated in the murder and torture more than a million alleged Communists, ethnic Chinese and intellectuals. Proud of their deeds and having gone unpunished, Anwar and his pals are delighted when Joshua Oppenheimer, the film’s director, asks them to re-enact these murders in any genre they desire.
Initially Anwar and his friends enthusiastically take up the challenge using hired actors, making elaborate sets and costumes and even using pyrotechnic, but eventually as the movie violence is played out and reconstructed, Anwar finally begins to feel unease and remorse.
Often surreal, grotesque and profoundly disturbing, Oppenheimer’s bold, original film is a powerful portrait at humanity at its worst and also idiosyncratic. But also highlights how those who have committed even the worst atrocities cannot fully escape the psychological impact of their actions.
★★★★★ "If Oppenheimer's aim is to question and investigate what life the past has in the present, he has succeeded in a staggeringly original way" - Dave Calhoun, Time Out
★★★★★ "So breathtakingly daring and powerful, it replaces your oxygen with awe" - Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, Metro
★★★★★ "A gut-churning film: and a radical dive into history, grabbing the past in a way a conventional documentary would not" - Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian