The Act of Killing (pictured) is finally getting a release in the country in which it was shot.
U.S. distributor Drafthouse Films is teaming up with Vice Media to distribute the film for free in Indonesia in September.
Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer and exec produced by Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, the documentary follows a group of former death squad leaders as they produce and star in a fantasy film based on the 1965-1966 slaughter of around one million suspected Communists, an event still revered today as act of patriotism by Indonesia’s political establishment.
On September 30, Indonesians will be able to download the 159-minute director’s cut for free via the geo-blocked site www.actofkilling.com. Due to piracy concerns, the film will be distributed in Indonesia without English subtitles.
In addition to Drafthouse and Vice, the release is being supported by digital platform VHX, producer Signe Byrge Sørensen’s Final Cut for Real ApS company, and the more than 60 Indonesian crew members who were billed as “anonymous” in the film’s credits for safety reasons.
“The real thing the film’s addressing is the political culture of impunity that’s been built on the genocide and then the slippage from impunity into open celebration, and even joy, and that’s an allegory for corruption and the charade that goes by the name of Indonesian democracy at the moment,” Oppenheimer told realscreen last year when asked how he hoped the film would be received in Indonesia.
“What we can hope for is that this [film] will open a space for a radical re-imagining of the country’s present by understanding how this traumatic past has been kept alive in the present both as an instrument of fear to keep people afraid and also keep them silenced,” he added. “I hope it will lead to a space to refute and expose for what it is the threatening and disturbing celebration of mass killing that persists and circulates in Indonesia today.”
The film premiered last year at the Toronto International Film Festival and has reportedly been shown in more than 500 underground screenings in 95 Indonesian cities. The Act of Killing also won the Audience Award at the Berlin Film Festival and has become a critical favorite, as well as the indie distributor Drafthouse’s biggest hit since its limited North American theatrical release began in July.
“While in Indonesia shooting another documentary, Vice producers happened on a screening of The Act of Killing and were deeply affected,” said Eddy Moretti, Vice Media’s chief creative officer, in a statement. “When I finally saw the film myself, I was also deeply affected. It’s that rare kind of film: you marvel at its form, its structure, you are drawn into the emotional and cultural complexities, but all the while you can’t stop thinking about how truly evil and disgusting humans can be to one another.”