I am currently reporting a story on the Indonesian response to the astonishing new film, The Act of Killing. Director Joshua Oppenheimer worked on the film for nearly a decade and has called this work, “a documentary of the imagination.”
The film delves into the memories of several perpetrators who participated in the 1965-66 anti-communist killings, inviting them to re-imagine their acts in a kind of self-styled Hollywood film (within a film) of the mind’s invention. Much to say, much to think about, this documentary could well move the needle in terms of how Indonesia both officially and unofficially regards this heretofore piece obliterated past.
But I wasn’t thinking about any of this ten minutes ago. I was just sitting here in Columbia’s Butler library, working away on something else, engrossed in some other question, some other problem. Then I checked my email the way you can and will reflexively do when in a space that has powerful, constant wifi, which I guess is pretty much everywhere at this point. There was an email connecting me to Anonymous, the unnamed Indonesian co-director.
I am fascinated by the idea of someone remaining absolutely anonymous in the context of making and releasing this high profile film, and am deeply moved by the necessary, ongoing fear and concern for safety. What to ask, what to do, how to phrase, what next, why? An email address for Anonymous lands in your inbox and your are once again rocked free of your moorings and reminded of the tremendous risks people can and must take for their work.
In conversation with the director Joshua earlier this week, I asked him about his own sense of safety. “I was a little scared of presenting the film recently when I was in the Hague,” he said. “There were a lot of Indonesians and I was scared I could be in physical danger there. And tomorrow—no—in two days, I go to Hong Kong. I’m a little nervous there too, just to be honest.”