Tracing Frictions in The Act of Killing

Intan Paramaditha
Film Quarterly, Vol. 67 No. 2 (Winter 2013), pp. 44-49.*

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“The Indonesian criminal is, then, not an Other, different from oneself. His face, rather, is an object one sees through, as one sees through spectacles or telescopes.”

James T. Siegel

Joshua Oppenheimer has called The Act of Killing his love letter to Indonesia. It did not take long for him to discover that his love was requited; after hundreds of community screenings in various cities throughout the country, countless comments and reviews have appeared in blogs and social media confirming how Indonesian viewers truly appreciate the labor of love of Oppenheimer and his co-directors Christine Cynn and Anonymous. The Act of Killing is a beautiful and disturbing gift, a mirror that projects the image of the nation so violent and surreal. And this raises further questions: How do Indonesians recognize their faces in the mirror? How do they resituate themselves as witnesses to violence after The Act of Killing?

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*Film Quarterly’s special dossier on The Act of Killing via JSTOR.