White Terror, through anti-communist genocides by fascist governments and repressive military juntas, have happened across the globe over the 20th century, from Spain and Greece to Chile and Argentina to Korea and Taiwan, and elsewhere. However, Nazi Germany aside, few countries have perhaps experienced the kind of grisly mass killings that happened in Indonesia upon the Suharto military dictatorship’s 1965 coup d'état. With The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer had made an intensely disturbing and provocative documentary on the killing squads, who still roam the streets with elan, proudly reliving and even enacting their ghastly massacres. It formed a daring diptych with its powerful companion piece The Look of Silence in their eerily complementary themes, styles and tones – the focus here was on the victims as opposed to the perpetrators, and hence, in place of the lurid portrayals and narrative flamboyance of the former, this was restrained, brutally straightforward and exuded deep suffering. Therefore, while it might’ve been shadowed by the former’s formal ingenuity, it was ethically less troubling and more profoundly affecting for me. The docu’s principle subject is Adi Rukum, a proletarian optometrist in his 40s, whose elder brother Ramli was barbarously tortured and murdered by death squad members, many of whom were their neighbours and some have even become high-ranking officials. Hoping, albeit in futility, to sense a shred of guilt and regret in those men, and hence perhaps get some sort of closure, he engages in candid interactions with them and their families. The quiet power, silent courage and pained conviction that this mild-mannered man displays, along with the sobering reiteration of man’s infinite capacity for evil, is bound to leave one shaken and haunted.
Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
Genre: Documentary/Political Documentary