IBRAHIM ISA's FOCUS
Wednesday, 05 March 2014
“OSCAR” Winning Or “NOT”
“THE ACT OF KILLING” HAS DIRECTED
WORLD ATTENTION TO INDONESIA
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Film Director Joshua OPPENHEIMER:
- “There was lots of foreign support for the
genocide and that is used as an excuse not to apologize,”
“It’s my hope that the US will also take responsibility for its part so the Indonesian government can come to terms with the past and we can move on to reconciliation and healing,”
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‘Act of Killing’ Director Joshua Oppenheimer Hopes – – –
US Will Admit Role in 1965 Killings , Inter Press Service,03-03-2014
- Washington.Watching former
gangsters and paramilitary leaders proudly reenact
scenes from Indonesia’s military-led mass killings of
1965-66 in the Oscar-nominated documentary, “The Act of
Killing,” it’s easy to forget the role of outside
- “It was like I had
wandered into Germany 40 years after the Holocaust only to
find the Nazis were still in power,” director Joshua
Oppenheimer told IPS in an exclusive interview.
But while US covert support for the deadly crackdown that killed at least half a million people is not the focus of his film, Oppenheimer hopes the powerful country will at least admit its role.
“There was lots of foreign support for the genocide and that is used as an excuse not to apologize,” he said during a recent visit to Washington.
“It’s my hope that the US will also take responsibility for its part so the Indonesian government can come to terms with the past and we can move on to reconciliation and healing,” he added.
While the US has not formally admitted to that part, declassified documents show the CIA directly assisted the Indonesian army in its quest to eliminate the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) — killing anyone accused of links in the process — after a failed coup attempt.
“The simplest way to put it is that in the month leading up to the events of Sep. 30, 1965 the US sought through covert operations to provoke an armed clash between the Indonesian army and the communist movement in the hope that it would eliminate the PKI,” said Bradley Simpson, who heads a project at the National Security Archive that declassified key US government documents concerning Indonesia and East Timor during the reign of General Suharto.
“Perhaps most important is the fact that the [Lyndon] Johnson administration sent clear signals that they enthusiastically supported an attempt to destroy the communists from the bottom up knowing full well that this would lead to mass violence,” he told IPS.
But while Oppenheimer may have produced one of the most unique documentaries of all time, he had initially set out to film a different story in Indonesia.
While documenting a community of exploited plantation workers in 2001, Oppenheimer, then in his late twenties, witnessed how they were bullied by the “Pancasila Youth,” a gangster-led paramilitary organization that used death squads and continues to repress the population to this day.
After victims of the genocide were intimidated into not talking to him by order of the military — the leaders of which proudly display their brute hold on the population and corruption on camera — some survivors urged Oppenheimer to interview the perpetrators instead.
“I was afraid at first, but after I got over that fear I realized that everyone I interviewed was boastful about even the most horrible details of the killings, which they described with smiles on their faces,” he said.
In the eight years that it took Oppenheimer to complete “The Act of Killing,” which was executive produced by internationally known directors Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, he only discovered his main character, Anwar Congo — the founder of a right-wing paramilitary organization that grew out of the death squads — in the final year of filming.
Anwar, who describes torturing and murdering suspected communists “like we were killing happily,” acts as though he is the director of the documentary as he collaborates with friends and colleagues to recreate scenes from his memory.
“I felt his pain was close to the surface, so I lingered on him,” said Oppenheimer.
But while Anwar seems haunted by his past, especially by a recurring nightmare of a severed head with eyes he failed to close staring at him, he ultimately reverts to the excuse that he was just following orders.
“I don’t think Congo saw this as his redemption,” said Oppenheimer. “He doesn’t recognize in a cognizant way that what he did was wrong.”
After Anwar watched the film “he was very moved and emotional and then he pulled himself together and said, ‘this film shows what it’s like to be me,’” Oppenheimer told IPS.
“His conscience was guiding the process and it sounds very complex but for him it was simply about showing me how he killed,” he said.
Adi Zulkadry, a fellow executioner who warns Anwar that the material in the film could be used against them, seems to have a deeper understanding of the magnitude of his actions but also justifies them as a consequence of war.
Pressed to respond to the fact that what he did is described by the Geneva Conventions as “war crimes,” Adi says he doesn’t “necessarily agree with those international laws.”
“War crimes are defined by the winners… Americans killed the Indians. Has anyone punished them for that? Punish them!” he proclaims.
But while Adi denies the value of Indonesia coming to terms with its past by admitting that what happened was a genocide, Oppenheimer’s film may be aiding the process — it has been screened thousands of times in Indonesia, and is available for free online.
“The Act of Killing” was also recently shown at the US Library of Congress.
Senator Tom Udall of the foreign relations committee, who introduced the film to a group of senators, told US News and World Report that, “The United States government should be totally transparent on what it did and what it knew at the time, and they should be disclosing what happened here.”
But it remains to be seen whether Washington will change a policy of denial.
“Fifty years is long enough for both the US and Indonesia not to call it a genocide,” said Oppenheimer. Inter-Press Service
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The Jakarta Globe: The Nation Needs an Act of RestitutionMarch 2, 2014
Oscar-winning or not, Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Act of Killing” has directed worldwide attention to Indonesia’s darkest past, when in 1965-1966 up to a million people were killed in a state-sponsored, systematic butchering. There is no more hiding place for Indonesia.
We have to admit our own history, whether we like it or not. We can’t afford to pretend there was no wrong done, as our government and ruling elites have always maintained. It’s such denials that enable a documentary like “The Act of Killing” to come into being in the first place.
Continued denials and a failure to tackle the issue places the entire nation in the position of protecting the mass murderers, a crime that puts Indonesia among the lowest of nations. And why should we protect those involved in the killings in the first place? The purge was conducted by a past generation, and most of the current generation have nothing to do with the crime. Why should we sacrifice the present and the future to protect the organizations — most of which still exist — that were involved?
It’s false to assume that admitting past crimes, apologizing for them and then moving on will shame the organizations. We believe they are noble steps that should have been taken a long time ago so that the state can provide restitution for surviving victims and families of the murdered.
These families have been waiting for so long. The demand for justice won’t go away. If the elites of the organizations involved in the mass killings will participate in restoring justice, they will help clean the stain on their histories — rather than bring them down with denials, and together with them the nation’s pride.
Must we wait for outsiders to force us? It’s sad that we should need the Oscars to prompt us to right this terrible wrong for ourselves.
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Too bad it didn't win, it would've been great to see more exposure to the movie in Indonesia. Simple as it may, my personal wish as the outcome of this movie is for the present-day PP thugs to get punished for what they did extorting money from businesses and running a mob-like protection racket and other illegal activities openly and with support from people in the government and member of the parliament.
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So long as you are a nation that put the army on a pedestal, you will never unravel the 1965 massacre, and others (albeit on lesser scale) later - the 1980s Petrus killings, 1991 East Timor Santa Cruz massacre, 1998 reformasi killings...
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