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Springtime for Suharto - Notes on "The Act of Killing"

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  • Woodsman
    replied
    Re: Springtime for Suharto - Notes on "The Act of Killing"

    Originally posted by lakedaemonian View Post
    I would posit that what often makes people SO uncomfortable about genocide is the awkward fart in the room that I have never heard anyone ask:

    Why does it seem to happen so easily and often?
    Profit.

    Originally posted by lakedaemonian View Post
    I've spoken to people who have looked at genocide directed against an ethnic/religious/racial group the way we might look at polio or cancer.....something to be eradicated. A task one can find joy and accomplishment in eradicating....normal, healthy, highly functional human beings who execute human beings like they are weeding the garden with the same nonexistent internal consequence.
    One can always take refuge in politics. If you kill a distinct political group wholesale, then by definition it is not genocide and therefore the means and body count are not relevant. I'm not being cheeky, it's a subtle artifact of international law.

    The act of killing a discrete and distinct minority because of its politics does not seem to fall under the legal definition of genocide. Note that the Wikipedia article includes East Timor in the roll call of genocides, but there's no mention of the Indonesian pogroms of 1965. Using the broadest estimates, the body count in Timor never exceeded 200,000 murdered. The most conservative estimates put the number of dead as 108,000. Oppenheimer asserts upwards of three million people were murdered in the organized mass killings of 1965/66, yet this does not rise to the level of genocide.

    Because in the case of the pogroms of 1965/66 the motivation was fundamentally a political one. Within the Cold War context in which the events took place, it cannot be considered genocide or similar war crime. That's why the perpetrators wear their guilt with such ease. They know they are safe because their side won the political war. I find it hard to dispute the gentleman's ruthless logic:

    "War crimes are defined by the winners. I am a winner."


    There is justice in the world, only not for us.

    Leave a comment:


  • lakedaemonian
    replied
    Re: Springtime for Suharto - Notes on "The Act of Killing"

    I've been to too many sites of mass genocide in too many countries.

    I would posit that what often makes people SO uncomfortable about genocide is the awkward fart in the room that I have never heard anyone ask:

    Why does it seem to happen so easily and often?

    I've spoken to people who have looked at genocide directed against an ethnic/religious/racial group the way we might look at polio or cancer.....something to be eradicated.

    A task one can find joy and accomplishment in eradicating.

    And that's where the conversation NEVER goes........normal, healthy, highly functional human beings who execute human beings like they are weeding the garden with the same nonexistent internal consequence.

    And not 1 or 2 outlier examples.......but countless examples.

    Personally, I strongly believe that any discussion about "human enlightenment" and the argument from some that human behavior will evolve in parallel with technology for the better is potentially dangerous in the same way that expecting hyenas to evolve by giving them iPhones and Google Glass is a recipe for disaster.

    There are aspects to the fabric of our respective cultures/societies that are as tough and resilient as kevlar. But kevlar soaked in gasoline.

    Leave a comment:


  • Springtime for Suharto - Notes on "The Act of Killing"

    What is it like? Weird. Disturbing. Surreal. Imagine Orson Welles convincing the Nazis to act in a film dramatizing their crimes. With Bollywood-style musical numbers.

    Director Josh Oppenheimer has accomplished a similarly improbable feat, convincing self-confessed mass killers to perform as actors in a film dramatizing their crimes. His documentary film, "The Act of Killing" features chillingly realistic re-enactments of the murders by the actual perpetrators filmed at the actual locations where the crimes occurred. There is also singing and dancing and costumes and breathtaking scenery. And blood. Lots of blood.



    Through the most improbable means of surrealistic documentary cinema, if such a thing can even be conceptualized without first seeing the film at length, "The Act of Killing" provides a frightfully chilling perspective on the Indonesian mass murders of 1965 in which upwards of 1 million people were systematically murdered in a year-long orgy of political violence. Like the pressure of a fault line giving way, Oppenheimer and his opus may well trigger the epistemological rupture that finally breaks through almost 50 years of amnesia about one of the last great genocides of the 20th Century.

    With "The Act of Killing", Josh Oppenheimer has done more than merely transform documentary film making. He has obliterated the very paradigm of the documentary film. In its surreal and otherworldly juxtapositions of fact and fantasy, "The Act of Killing" has transcended into a completely novel form. It is a rare and singular work that may well take a prominent place in any future study of documentary film making. Whether the powers that be behind the glitz and billions in Hollywood recognize it as such is immaterial to the reality of Oppenheimer's achievement. Evocative of Goya's "Disasters of War," Josh Oppenheimer has rendered truth, unvarnished and unadorned, through the subversive imaginative elements of his art.
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