The Act of Killing
The Act of Killing is a documentary based on the murder of many thousands of ethnic Chinese, and others deemed to be communists, in Indonesia in 1965-66. The murderers are still alive, have never been tried, and remain significant figures in their communities. The institutional structures which supported these appalling crimes appear to be still intact.
The structure of the film follows one of the main ring-leaders, Anwar Congo, in his daily life now. It also portrays a series of re-enactments of murders, directed by the protagonists themselves.
Organised human brutality tends to be based around ideologies which dehumanise other people - this is necessary - classifying them as distinct groups, usually premised on ill-defined categories of "enthnicity", "race", "tribe", or "culture". In this instance, it is "communism". Empathy destroys these myths and re-humanises.
This film renders this process bare. The economic and political structure that supports institutionalised brutality is shown with shocking openness. If you watch this film, you will see empathy occurring, or trying to occur, on many levels. It almost seems inescapable.
At the end, Anwar, whose mind haunts him at night in his dreams - where he cannot keep his victims at bay - is almost rejected by his own body, as he experiences only a fraction of the misery he wrought upon others.