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.