In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_f8f20egntzlhnjjletts89sx5lt

Magic in the Moonlight

While Allen’s new picture, "Magic In The Moonlight," isn’t even close to being a disaster (for that, see, well, "Scoop"), I don’t think it’s unreasonable…

Thumb_hercules

Hercules

Dwayne Johnson tries, but he’s surrounded by poor CGI and a terrible adaptation of yet another comic book. Ian McShane steals what little movie there…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Primary_actofkilling

If We Picked the Winners 2014: Best Documentary

In anticipation of the Academy Awards, we polled our contributors to see who they thought should win the Oscar. Once we had our winners, we asked various writers to make the case for our selection in each category. Here, Olivia Collette makes the case for the best documentary of 2013: "The Act of Killing". Two winners will be announced Monday through Thursday, ending in our choice for Best Picture on Friday. 


Let me be clear about this: each movie in the Best Documentary Feature category deserves the nod. I should also disclose that I am firmly in Jehane Noujaim’s corner. I don’t know how she manages to get as close as she does to her subjects, nor how she keeps dodging death, but it’s a testament to her fervor and fearlessness.

The only way I could pick a winner was to narrow it down to the most unique experience of the five. In that respect, “The Act of Killing” is distinct not because of its premise, but because of the exercise it gives itself.

Director Joshua Oppenheimer asks Anwar Congo, a major player in the Indonesian paramilitary Pancasila Youth, to help him film re-enactments of the killings that occurred during the organization’s anti-communist purge of 1965-66. Congo brags about having tortured and killed over 1,000 during the purge. He’s keen to relate the war crimes to a wider public, even hoping the whole thing will look like the old gangster movies that influenced the style and manner of his murders.

By reconstructing the events, the Pancasila members deconstruct their involvement in them. In one scene, a Pancasila leader is worried that a re-enactment makes the organization look too ruthless, despite admitting to its verity. In another, two men debate the semantics of sadism and cruelty; one insists they’re the same, but the other believes cruelty is the less severe of the two, and won’t accept that what they did to the communists was sadistic.

“The Act of Killing” challenges non-fiction by embedding Pancasila members in sometimes surreal retellings of their own truths. The discussions surrounding how to recreate events accurately are all the more fascinating because some of the folks have buried the purge beneath decades of denial.

It’s not surprising that the staged and real-life scenes are often difficult to tell apart. At its core, “The Act of Killing” is about the lies we tell ourselves to make the truth easier to swallow.

Click here for our winner for Best Director and come back tomorrow for Best Actor and Actress.

Popular Blog Posts

Exploring Israel-Palestine through Movies: Part 1

The first part in a four-part series on what film can teach us about the relationship between Israel and Palestine.

Able-Bodied Actors and Disability Drag: Why Disabled Roles are Only for Disabled Performers

Scott Jordan Harris argues that disabled characters should not be played by able-bodied actors.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Simply Do it: Talking with Woody Allen About Directorial Style

An interview with Woody Allen about his new film, "Magic in the Moonlight."

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus