Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"Hell is empty and all the devils are here..."

“People speak sometimes about the "bestial" cruelty of man, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to beasts, no animal could ever be so cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

         On Sunday, March 2nd at 7 PM EST on ABC, comedian and  beloved talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres will honor actors, writers, artists, musicians and film makers with the coveted golden Oscar statue at the 86th  Academy Awards ceremony. Among many competitive categories this year is the documentary film. The nominees for best documentary film include:

“Cutie and the Boxer” Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher
“Dirty Wars” Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill
“The Square” Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer
“20 Feet from Stardom”( nominees to be determined) and the overwhelmingly powerful,
     “The Act of Killing” produced and directed by Joshua Oppenheimer (see photo and clip above) with Signe Byrge Sørensen.

     "The Act of Killing" is the disturbingly raw documentary of the deaths of nearly a million opponents of Indonesia's political regime, the heads of the country's death squads celebrated as heroes. Challenged to  examine their brutal actions regarding the killings, the men produce elaborately staged plays and movies   reenacting mass slaughter.
     Anwar Congo, a former gang leader and his friends recreate surreal cowboy scenarios,  musical dance numbers, and film noir gangster vignettes.  Even though Congo and his band of mass murderers are scrutinized in the media their reign has continued ever since 1965 when the government of Indonesia was overthrown by the military.
     Joshua Oppenheimer, the thirty-nine year old documentary film maker and Texas native studied at Harvard University and currently lives in Europe. His paternal grandparents were from Germany. His grandfather had left the country before Hitler's rise to power and was studying in America. Oppenheimer's grandfather returned to Germany during World War II and was able to rescue some family members, but most of his relatives were killed in the Holocaust.

  Oppenheimer is quoted as saying of the real-life murderers of  " The Act of Killing", 

 "within minutes of meeting me, they would tell me horrible stories, often boastfully, and would say, 'How about if we go to the place where I killed people, and I will show you how I did it?' And then they would often lament afterwards, 'Oh I should have brought a machete along to use as a prop,' or 'I should have brought friends along who could play victims, it would have been more cool that way.'

     Even though the haunting movie has been described as "terrifying" and "painful to watch", the human rights atrocities and complete lack of humanity captured need to be seen, heard and discussed by all generations. There are critical human rights offenses that have to be addressed and understood right now in the Ukraine, Venezuela and Uganda. "The Act of Killing" proves there is no other form of cinema as potent or compelling as the documentary film.