Monday, March 03, 2014

Movie: The Act of Killing

I just watched The Act Of Killing, a 2012 2-hour movie about the 1965 slaughter of a million people (movie) 500k killed (wikipedia) in Indonesia.  It was very interesting, but I can't recommend it as part of our Communism studies because the movie did not cover the political angle of the time.

This is a documentary.  They bring together several killers from 1965, who are all free today and were never punished, and have them talk about what they did, how they did it and their motivations.  While their targets were "Communists," there was nothing said about the political environment.

You'd think a movie about the murder of Communists and suspected Communists would include politics, but this one does not.  Further, it is implied that to those who killed in 1965, "Communism" was synonymous with "Chinese."  The killers, who are the focus of the movie and who explain their activities in 1965, are seen as having negative feelings toward the Chinese.  The troubling part of this is that all of the Chinese shown in the movie are merchants with their own shops.  In other words, the "Communists" depicted in today's Indonesia by the 1965 killers... are Capitalists.

The movie's absence of political drivers led this viewer, with no historical knowledge of Indonesia political history, to conclude those killed were victims of gang violence rather than political violence.  The interviews start with the killings rather than the motive(s).

Indonesia's Political History

There was a failed coup in 1965, which was blamed on Communists.  The Communist Party in Indonesia was the largest non-ruling Communist Party in the world until it was "crushed" in 1965 and outlawed in 1966.  From this coup attempt Suharto came to power and ruled for 31 years until 1998

Movie Criticisms

NY Times, March 1:
JAKARTA, Indonesia — The American director of the chilling Indonesian documentary “The Act of Killing” has won dozens of awards so far for the film and could add one of the movie industry’s most coveted honors Sunday at the Oscars.

But so far, the director, Joshua Oppenheimer, has not succeeded in accomplishing what he considered a greater goal — jump-starting a debate in Indonesia that will compel the government to finally open a formal inquiry into one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century.
South China Morning Post (Jan 21) reports Chinese social media is reacting to this movie - the first most Chinese have heard of the 1965 slaughter of mostly Chinese.

Voice of America (Jan 27) tries to explain why anti-communism is still strong in Indonesia.  I want to think there is more to the hatred of Communists than this.  Could it be anti-Chinese racism instead?

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