Life, News, Photography and Reviews from Ubud: The Apple of Bali's Eye

The Old Bali Blog « Joshua Oppenheimer's film 'The Act of Killing' nominated for an Oscar

1965 to 1966: The Act of Killing...

'The Act of Killing' by Joshua Oppenheimer

Joshua Oppenheimer's film 'The Act of Killing' depicting the Indonesian genocide of 1965-1966.


THEY SAY THE WHITE HERONS that first nested in 1967 above Petulu village – a 10-minute-drive from Ubud and now a tourist attraction – are the souls of Balinese men, women and children who were murdered out-of-hand by anti-communist mobs during the pitch black years of 1965 and 1966.

It's difficult to equate the Ubud of today – of legong performances, Italian restaurants, fine dining and traffic jams – with rampaging bands of killers armed with sickles and wooden clubs intent on ridding the island of communist sympathisers.

But between the months of October 1965 and March 1966 up to a million people were killed across Indonesia – 100,000 on Bali alone.

It's a complex piece of Indonesia's history, and one that has been pushed under the carpet – until now.

Joshua Oppenheimer's jet-black documentary 'The Act of Killing' has been nominated for an Oscar, and it will probably win.

Oppenheimer came to Indonesia to trace and interview perpetrators of the murder, and instead allowed his film to be hijacked by a trio of men who between them dispatched over 1,000 people.

The lead character is Anwar Congo – a small-time gangster who pre-1965 ran an outdoor cinema in North Sumatra, and whose penchant for the theatrical takes the film to unbearable limits.

To say that some of the scenes are bizarre is an understatement – a group of women dressed in the red-and-white of Indonesia's flag sing and dance below a waterfall as they thank their killers for sending them to heaven; the son of a real-life victim who plays the part of his father during the latter's execution.

At one point, Anwar and company dance the cha-cha on the graves of their victims.

'The Act of Killing' isn't exactly banned in Indonesia – it was never released here – but you can watch it on YouTube.

'Jagal: The Act of Killing' ~ Full Movie

Oppenheimer's chillingly gruesome film 'Jagal: The Act of Killing'.


The reaction from Indonesia's presidential spokesman for foreign affairs wasn't exactly positive about the documentary: 'The nation will address its past in its own time.'

For a solid crit, see Mark Kermode's piece in The Guardian. For the Oppenheimer interview at Al Jazeera, try this. And to find out how this off-hand gem fits in with the rest of Indonesian cinema, take five and check out 'Cinema Paradiso: The Story of Indonesian Cinema on Bali' by Ubud High.

The Balinese believe that a violent death and the absence of funeral rights leaves the soul in a tortured, untenanted limbo.

But it seems the white herons of Petulu have finally come home to nest.


More at Ubud High ~ Cinema Paradiso: The Story of Indonesian Cinema on Bali »

From 1930's Nudie Cutie films to the Academy Awards, Ubud High takes a front-row seat to peer at Bali's place in the history of Indonesian Cinema... ➨

'Virgins of Bali', 1932, nudie-cutie film poster 1930s Bali

'Virgins of Bali' 1930's nudie-cutie film poster (1932).


Cinemas & Film Screenings in Ubud, Bali

Film Screenings at Black Beach Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria, Ubud

Regular casual film-screenings are given for free on Black Beach's Top Terrace. Just walk up the stairs and relax.


Paradiso Cinema, Ubud

Billed somewhat bizarrely as The World's First Organic Vegan Cinema, the Paradiso cinema in Ubud is open for daily movie screenings, and is located on the popular Jalan Gautama ('Goutama') Selatan.

Paradiso Ubud boasts a large venue with a capacity of 150 seats, has a door-price of Rp.50,000 that can be redeemed against vegan snacks and healthy drinks – and if you want to order more during the film, all you have to do is raise your hand.

Gold-class Bali service; vegan-style cinema.


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