Earlier this morning, we posted our interview The Act of Killing director Joshua Oppenheimer. The harrowing documentary takes the heinous 1960s genocide in Indonesia and exposes the perpetrators, putting them face to face with their crimes. But rather than judge them or condemn them entirely, Oppenheimer asked them to recreate their atrocities in a highly-styled theatrical manner. We noted that the film played out like an homage to the American cinema they so loved and the result is a chilling portrait of evil and where that rests in the psyche.
Speaking to the subjects of his film—namely death squad leader Anwar Congo— Oppenheimer said:
I never forgot my condemnation of the crimes these men committed. However, I insisted to myself, as a rule, that I would condemn the whole person who did it, because the moment you condemn the perpetrator as a monster, as a psychopath, or as an evil human being full stop, you actually dismiss a whole person, as entire life. Probably the reason you do that is to reassure yourself that you’re not like that, but the moment you do that, you close down any possibility of understanding how we as a human beings do this to each other.
Every act of evil committed in our history is committed by human beings like us, and if we care, if we make films about these issues in order to gain insight into how these things happen so we can prevent these things from happening again, we have to actually look at the reality of what happens. So I had this rule that I see Anwar as a human being and if I ever felt furious or disturbed or so angry that I couldn’t see him as a person, I would stop and take a day out or whatever I needed to and come back as one human being filming another again. That made it painful also and I don’t know if I ever liked him, but I definitely have love for him as a person. Anwar has seen the film and is okay with the film and he and I are in touch fairly regularly, even as the film is primarily embraced.
Executive produced by titans of modern documentary film, Errol Morris and Werner Herzog, the two signed onto the film
after seeing an early cut and it’s no wonder they found themselves captivated by the project. And now, thanks to Vice
, you can watch a conversation with Morris and Herzog in a 12-minute clip that discusses their relationship to The Act of Killing
and why it’s so important.