The Act of Killing
Author: Robert Cribb | Australian National University
Filmed over several years in the North Sumatra capital, Medan, The Act of Killing (TAOK) is a sprawling work that encompasses three distinct, though related, stories. The core of the film consists of the reminiscences of an elderly gangster who took part in the massacres of Communists in 1965–66. Anwar Congo appears early on in the film as a genial old man, but his subdued charm evaporates as he begins to recount, and then to reenact, the killings that he carried out. He takes the film crew to the rooftop where he garroted his victims with wire to avoid making a mess with blood. Using an associate as a stand-in, he demonstrates the technique of slipping a wire noose over the victim's head and twisting it tight for as long as was needed to bring death. One of Congo's friends describes killing his girlfriend's father, while another recalls his rape of fourteen- year-old girls, exulting in the cruelty of the act.