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Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing

Joshua Oppenheimer, The Act of Killing, 2012, HD video, color, sound, 116 minutes. Anwar Congo, Herman Koto, and dancers. Image: Drafthouse Films.

There are people like me everywhere in the world.

—Anwar Congo

SUMANTRAN SLAUGHTERER Anwar Congo and his rotund sidekick, Herman Koto, the latter heavily rouged in a turquoise muumuu and showboating chapeau, sway and shimmy in a sunlit forest, baptized by a burbling waterfall as a chorus line of Balinese beauties in gold lamé gowns slowly vogue their way out of the mouth of a giant concrete carp, everyone exhorted by a zealous offscreen choreographer to exude “peace! Happiness!” and to “smile!” The appalling sight of a war criminal, responsible for the torture and deaths of hundreds of his countrymen, happily dancing in a kitsch spectacle that both expiates and celebrates his mass executions—his victims thank him for sending them to heaven—provides the opening sequence (and structuring motif) of Joshua Oppenheimer’s shocking new documentary, The Act of Killing. Anwar

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