Saturday, January 17, 2015

Documentary Review: The Act of Killing (2012) - "Whimsical Depiction, Graphic Description"

This is the documentary everyone in Malaysia must watch especially ALL my Malay friends. Specifically those whom I approached nicely and then being talked down in a condescending and bullying tone. Most of them think they're better than me and see me as the weaker man, therefore showed me no equal respect. Many incidents I can recalled - I give you 2. One was when my religiously-dressed neighbor intentionally screamed at me for no reason and secondly this skinny assistant director of local TV dramas that pushed and shoved the talents like they're some kind of animal, in which I received the bloodiest whipping of all. This type of men are many and their "acts of killing" human aspirations and goodwill for the country is happening everyday. I am sure these extremists are descended along the lines of Anwar Congo, the main subject of this Oscar-nominated documentary. This documentary turns up to be also very relevant in today's society. Here's why:

1) Ethnic Malaysian Chinese are still being made the target as the enemy.

2) How history and media is manipulated to deceive the public's consciousness.

3) Actual killers and criminals are allowed free and still holding important positions in our society. 

Firstly, language should not be a barrier for you to watch this documentary because the language spoken is Bahasa Indon which is very similar to our local language.
The issues depicted in this documentary is not about Malaysia per se, but very much focused on our neighboring country Indonesia. The violence committed by Anwar Congo is described through re-enactments of actual murder of ethnic Chinese Indonesians as committed by him, by whom his victims were falsely branded as Communists back in 1965. Four years later, the same violent incident happened in Malaysia too. Watching this documentary presents no problem for me in understanding the language spoken for our local Bahasa Malaysia is actually derived from Bahasa Indonesia. Besides, the influx of great numbers of Indons into Malaysia back in the 60s has enabled us all to understand each other on the basic level. And the import of their brand of violence too.

Whimsical Depiction
The visual depiction of Indonesia on this documentary was so beautiful with the opening scene being the structure of a giant stone fish with its mouth opened admist the quiet lake as the background. But underneath all these beauty and whimsy lies its central figure, Anwar Congo, who are actually directing a scene for his movie at that scenic location. The "movie" was about the historic event that he personally undertook and responsible in the mass killing the Communists. You see, the so-called "truth" of history is defined by the winners - as so stated by Adil, Anwar's partner in the death squad group. The subjects (persons) of this documentary are all celebrated "heroes" in their home country in account of how they violently murdered all the "Communists". The very fact that these actual killers reminisced and recalled how they used methodological violence on their innocent victims on camera is definitely worth the watch.

Don't worry about graphic or violent scenes in the documentary - they're all re-enactments only created for Anwar's "movie". But within this context, he is drawing from his real-life experience as a death squad leader. Hence, therein lies the surrealism aspect of this documentary and what makes it so engaging to its audience because the accounts of the mass-killing are all true - but the reenactments on this documentary are not. You get to experience and listen to how these celebrated heroes justified their killing in the name of protecting the country. Murderers after committing horrendous acts against humanity always find ways to justifies their act so they can sleep better at night. Unfortunately for Anwar Congo, even after much justifications on camera, he still complained about the nightmares from his victims coming to haunt him all his life. He escaped his miserable old life through dancing, drugs and alcohol.

Graphic Description
The director of this documentary used an ingenious method of soothing the giant egos of these real-life executioners by luring them into the promise of producing a cinematic movie. Anwar Congo loved Hollywood movies and often imitated the killing methods employed by his favourite movie stars like Al Pacino and John Wayne. For example, he proudly described the method used in killing off his victims by encircling their necks with a wire so it would make a clean kill and not messed up the place. Thinking his descriptions would help in making his historic movie more accurate in its depiction, audiences at home would be dumbfounded and horrified to witness the accounts of all these killings playing in their heads. The more he speaks on camera, the more I discovered as an audience, how an ordinary person like him can commit such horrific acts in the name of national security and be granted immunity for his crimes! The truth is he's only one cog of the many hundreds that were used for the political ambitions of a dictator - there are still hundreds of ex-killers out there walking freely in the public among us!

Perhaps another lesser dramatic title for this documentary should be "The Act of Justifying". Towards the end of the documentary, he fell into regret upon coming to the full realization that the acts he committed in the past was actually wrong and against humanity after his lengthy talk on the camera on his "film-making process". Should we as an audience feel sorry for him? If some of you did, then you should consider the hundreds, even thousands of lives he took and how it affects the families of these innocent victims being falsely labelled as "communist". What truly strikes in me on the most emotional level is how the Indonesian ethnic Chinese were treated like the Jews during the Holocaust. They were wrongly labelled as Communists in Indonesia that were deemed "dangerous" and therefore hundreds, even thousands of them were killed in the streets. But the truth was, all of them were of the non-revolutionary kind and peaceful with no political ambitions whatsoever! Then why kill all these innocent people? It's because to strike terror and fear in its people and the Indonesian ethnic Chinese were a peaceful group, therefore they're an easy target for the Communist label and made an example of.

I've acted in a Communist role for a local movie meant for National Day celebration before and if I had watched this documentary then I would have immediately rejected the role. Unfortunately, this documentary were only released in 2012 (it actually took them 8 years to complete) where else the movie I've acted as the "evil Communist" were released in 2007. Thankfully, my role in that movie was deleted or else I would have been outraged for acting out on false history.

I've learned 3 important truths:

1) Ethnic Chinese in Malaysia and Indonesia are the real victims of history NOT the Communist perpetrators or criminals.

2) Those who are the real criminals and murderers still roam free in these countries (and worst, given high positions in society).

3) Justifying for your special rights and privileges based on false history by accusing ethnic Chinese for all your problems makes you the guilty and most undeserving of anything period. So stop all race and religion-based politics today because you're fighting for nothing.

Let us all come together, unite and become a better Malaysia right now.

For my commentaries on CURRENT ISSUES:
The Power of Joyful vs Joyless
The Violent Nature of Malaysian Society
Zaman Gemilang Ma-Lu-Gua
Why a Chinese person should eat at Chinese restaurant
The Great Malaysian Tragedy
5 Foibles Committed by Political Leaders
Street Protests
The Age of Haters
The Over Emphasis of Hardware over Software
How My "Friend" Make Plus-sized Looks Bad
City Folks' Sitting Culture (BM)
How to Identify Monsters Anywhere
Habits of Local Talent (BM)
Lessons learned from "Friends"
Malaysian "Mega-Structures" Hits and Misses