Documentary cinema, memory and reconciliation: An interview with Joshua Oppenheimer, director of "The Act of Killing"


  • Nubia Rojas


The documentary film “The Act of Killing” reflects the ongoing impunity enjoyed by the paramilitary groups responsible for the crimes of Suharto’s regime in Indonesia in the late 1960s. Applauded by critics, internationally awarded and  nominated for an Oscar  in 2014 in the category "Best Documentary", "The Act of Killing" goes beyond denouncing: it creates a reflection on the recent past of a society that sees perpetrators as heroes and at the same criminalizes victims and justifies the atrocities committed against them. In this article, based on an interview with Oppenheimer, I look into "The Act of Killing" as an example of how documentary cinema can highlight the necessity of structural reforms and contribute to social change, helping to reconstruct the historical memory of a country in the process of democratizing. The film contributes to the clarification of the truth, the search for justice for the victims and for legal punishment for the perpetrators as necessary elements for reconciliation and peacebuilding.

Author Biography

Nubia Rojas

Nubia Rojas is a Colombian independent journalist and consultant in Communication for Peace, Development and Social Change. She has worked for media outlets and NGOs in Colombia, Europe and Central America. E-mail: