17. The Act of Killing
Director: Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, Anonymous
Release Date: July 19
If someone you'd just met and had a wonderful chat with admitted that he had once killed dozens of people, would you be able to continue speaking with him? Or, for that matter, allow yourself to be entertained by his playful side as he charmed you with everything he's done since the murders?
Those are just two of the many questions that power the profoundly disturbing documentary The Act of Killing, a film in which the horrific somehow becomes banal, the real difficult to believe. Co-director Joshua Oppenheimer traveled to Indonesia, located a former right wing paramilitary baddie, named Anwar Congo, and presented him with a gutsy challenge: recreate some of the homicides Congo and his colleagues committed against Chinese people deemed "communists" back in the 1960s for both a feature film and Oppenheimer's making-of doc about their production. These days, Congo is a friendly, loving grandfather who's harboring sadness over his past actions, which prompts him to take part in Oppenheimer's work as a means to finally expose the brutal truth.
Through The Act of Killing and its matter-of-fact depiction of mankind's worst members, the notion that, for some, taking another person's life can be as effortless as chewing gum is as startling as realizing that, for others, seeking redemption is utterly hopeless.