Adam’s SFIFF56 Report: Day 6 – The Act of Killing

Act_of_killing_01My plan was to catch two movies today, but sometimes “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”. Am I right, Robert Burns, or am I right? Long story short, I was in dire need of a quick power nap after work. So, in the spirit of Mr. Burns (the poet, not Homer Simpson’s boss) I told myself, “what Adam’s body wants, Adam’s body gets”. Deep poetry, I know. My quick power nap turned into a 2-hour siesta and, before I knew it, I missed the last festival screening of Olivier AssayasSomething in the Air. All was not lost though. I woke up in time to scoot on over to Berkeley’s PFA and catch The Act of Killing. Besides, Assayas’ film is planned for a limited release run here in San Francisco two weeks from now.

Act_of_killing_03five-starsRarely is cruelty – true cruelty – examined in such a fantastical, absurd, scary, disturbing, funny and real way. Come to think of it, not since Barbet Schroeder‘s timeless 1974 documentary, General Idi Amin Dada have I felt so haunted and engrossed in watching a sociopath.

This documentary follows a few (well, mainly two) former ruthless death squad leaders in Indonesia who have killed hundreds without flinching and have not only never been punished for their crimes, but are praised for them. When asked to act out their crimes, they dress up in either gangster attire from films they’ve seen, or, in one case, women’s clothes. These re-enactments range from absurd to hauntingly authentic. Because these bullies/sociopaths have zero fear of ever being persecuted for their killing sprees they are willing to tell all, and it doesn’t appear as if they are holding anything back.

While realizing how strange it may seem to say I enjoyed spending two hours in a darkened room staring at a couple of real life South Asian Tony Sopranos, truth is, I did. I could go on about the many different questions this film arose and how I interpret them, but I think I’ll save that for a much longer review/essay upon my re-watching of this. And yes, I most definitely will be re-watching this. Besides, even as I write this my medical condition feels as if it is announcing itself to me again. Those of you not following my daily SFIFF entries, I have kidney stones. TMI? At this point, I don’t care. I really want to delve more into this movie, but right now I have to pee, and I’m not looking forward to it! So, until my Day 7 Report…


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Categories: Reviews, San Francisco International Film Festival


  1. Filmbalaya’s Guide to SFIFF56 2013 | - May 5, 2013

    […] Act of Killing – “Rarely is cruelty – true cruelty – examined in such a fantastical, absurd, scary, disturbing, fu…” – […]

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