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Film explores ‘Act of Killing’


The act of killing is sometimes thought of as too horrific to watch. 

However, students gathered in the Marshall Student Center’s Oval Theater on Tuesday to watch the Tampa premiere of Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Act of Killing,” an award-winning documentary focusing on the 1960s Indonesian genocide and how it affects the country today.

The film centers on Anwar Congo, a gangster that became a leader of a paramilitary force tasked with the job of eliminating the communist threat. 

More than an estimated 1 million executions occurred during the Indonesian genocide, with Congo claiming to have personally killed 1,000 presumed communists. He also said he tortured and extorted ethnic Chinese and anyone associated with communism. 

More than 40 years later, Congo and his paramilitary, Pemuda Pancasila, are celebrated figures in Indonesia. They have around three million members, including elected officials, all who flaunt their membership. 

The Humanities Institute organized the presentation after director Elizabeth Bird saw the film at a human rights conference in Sweden. 

Liz Kicak, assistant director of the Humanities Institute, said she was provoked by the subject matter.  

“It addresses a genocide that I don’t think a lot of people are terribly familiar with, and really explores a lot about human nature,” she said. “They really just ask questions about right and wrong and how any one of us can become corruptible under certain forces.”

Almost 100 students attended the film Tuesday, many unfamiliar with the events of the Indonesian genocide. The audience was left speechless by the shocking events portrayed and the nonchalance of the perpetrators who celebrated them.

“I wasn’t familiar with it at all, actually,” Rachel Kelleher, a junior majoring in English, said. “It’s hard to believe that something like that could actually happen.”