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Filmmakers in Conversation: Joshua Oppenheimer with The Act of Killing

“If we are to transform Indonesia into the democracy it claims to be, citizens must recognize the terror and repression on which our contemporary history has been built. No film, or any other work of art for that matter, has done this more effectively than The Act of Killing.” —National Human Rights Commission of Indonesia

Where is truth in documentary when the subjects tell their stories in a form of make-believe? With movie sets, props, and theatrical makeup, the personal storytelling by mass murderers reveals how violence is imagined and reconciled in their minds. Director Joshua Oppenheimer has been immersed in this investigation for more than a decade, which has brought him in contact with militias, death
squads, and their victims to explore the relationship between political violence and public imagination.

Oppenheimer has directed award-winning films that include The Globalization Tapes, The Entire History of the Louisiana Purchase, and These Places We Learned to Call Home. He is senior researcher on the UK’s Arts and Humanities Council’s Genocide and Genre Project, and will follow The Act of Killing with The Look of Silence, a documentary about how survivors of violence and perpetrators coexist in the same communities.