Shocking ‘Act of Killing’ unlike any other documentary

Shocking ‘Act of Killing’ unlike any other documentary

This year’s Academy Award nominations produced the typical assortment of surprises and omissions, with “American Hustle,” “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” leading the list of major contenders.

While many of the year’s most celebrated films are still screening at local theaters, the lineup of nominated films available for home consumption is pretty slim… except for the lineup of Documentary Feature nominees.

Four of the five Documentary nominees are available for streaming on Netflix Instant, including:

–       “Cutie and the Boxer” – A Sundance Film Festival winner about the marriage between artists Ushio and Noriko Shinohara.

–       “Dirty Wars” – An expansion of journalist Jeremy Scahill’s investigation of covert military operations in recent U.S. conflicts.

–       “The Square” – Netflix-acquired documentary following six protesters against the backdrop of the Egyptian revolution.

–       “The Act of Killing” – Former “gangsters” in an Indonesian death squad recount the ways they tortured and killed dissenters in the 1960s.

“The Act of Killing” is widely regarded as the Oscar frontrunner and for good reason. In addition to the disturbing recollections of admitted murderers, the film also invites these men to reenact their mass killing methods onscreen. Most shockingly, the men embrace the opportunity as they recreate death and torture sequences in the style of their favorite movie genres (old gangster films, music and dance routines).

Some within the regime eventually admit to their group’s wrongdoing, telling stories of the murders that have haunted them. Others worry that by depicting their victims as innocents, they are undermining the glory of their still-in-power regime.

The film’s most fascinating subject, Anwar Congo, shows little remorse for his actions, until he struggles to portray one of his victims being tortured and killed. It is his eventual reaction to the footage that leads “The Act of Killing” into uncharted territory.

Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, “The Act of Killing” is horrific-but-essential viewing. In its structure and subject matter, there isn’t any documentary quite like it, making it all the more deserving of Oscar gold.

The fifth documentary nominee, “20 Feet from Stardom,” is a more lighthearted affair about backup singers to the world’s most popular musical acts. While not available on Netflix Instant, you can rent the film on disc or digitally.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *