'My conscience told me they had to be killed'

'My conscience told me they had to be killed'
Mr Anwar with a knife being pressed to his face in a re-enactment from the documentary, The Act Of Killing. The film shines a light on a particularly dark chapter of Indonesia's history. An estimated 500,000 to over one million Indonesians died in the 1965 to 1966 anti-communist blood-letting.

INDONESIA - Anwar Congo, 72, recalls almost wistfully the agony of his victims as he watches video footage re-enacting scenes from over 40 years ago, when he tortured and killed hundreds of suspected communists and their supporters in Medan.

"I can feel what the people I tortured felt," he says. "I did this to so many people."

He also revisits a building where he helped strangle some people with wire, a technique borrowed from mafia movies. "I know it was wrong, but I had to do it," he explains. "My conscience told me they had to be killed."

If the roles were reversed, wouldn't the communists have done the same, reasons the one-time cinema ticket tout and small-time gangster.

These chilling scenes are from the acclaimed documentary, The Act Of Killing, which offers an unflinching, close-up look at the recollections and justifications of several leaders of "death squads" in the 1965 to 1966 mass killings of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) members.

An estimated 500,000 to over one million Indonesians died in the anti-communist blood-letting.

The film - in which the former executioners re-enact their roles, taking turns to act as victim - opened in cinemas in the United States and Europe in July to rave reviews.

The film is tentatively slated for release in Singapore on Nov 28, its local distributor Indie Entertainment Company says.

Thousands of Indonesians have watched the documentary at private screenings across the country over the past year.

From this week, the producers are making the film - called Jagal, or slaughterer in Bahasa Indonesia - available for free download in Indonesia as the country marks the 48th anniversary of the abortive 1965 coup that preceded these killings.

The film was shot entirely in Bahasa Indonesia, and subtitled for audiences elsewhere.

Information Ministry chief spokesman Gatot S. Dewa Broto told The Sunday Times that the ministry, which regulates online content, would not consider any action unless there were complaints from the public.

Even with its limited audience, the film has provoked debate here about the merits of shining a light on a particularly dark chapter of Indonesia's history. Some clearly find it unwelcome.

American filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer has been warned on Twitter that the film could be renamed The Act Of Being Killed if he returned to Indonesia. Local film crew remain anonymous out of fear for their safety.

Threats aside, Mr Oppenheimer worries that if the film is banned, it would give paramilitary groups such as Pemuda Pancasila - whose leaders are featured in the film celebrating their fight against the communists - an excuse to resort to violence.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.