When Sukarno was overthrown by Suharto following the tragic 30 September Movement in 1965, Anwar Congo and his friends were promoted from illegal traders of movie theatre tickets on the black market to death squad leaders. They helped the army kill at least hundreds of thousands of alleged communists, and committed extortion of ethnic Chinese, killing those who refused. As the executioner for the most notorious death squad in his city Medan in North Sumatra, Anwar himself killed hundreds of people with his own hands. Today, Anwar is revered as a founding father of the right-wing paramilitary organization Pemuda Pancasila that grew out of the death squads. The organization is so powerful that its leaders include government ministers, and they are happy to boast about everything from corruption and election rigging to genocide. A regime was founded on crimes against humanity, yet has never been held accountable. Anwar and his friends agreed to make a fictional movie incorporating killings such as they committed in the past. Also there was filming behind the scenes, and interviews by Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer reserved the right to edit the material as he wished, and in fact used the material for this documentary, including only short scenes of the supposed fiction film Arsan dan Aminah (Arsan and Aminah). With the script changing a few times, their experience of the killings was adapted to their favorite film genres: gangster, western, and musical. They wrote the scripts and played themselves and their victims. Their fiction filmmaking process provides the film’s dramatic arc, and on the film sets the filmmaker could safely challenge them about what they did, without fear of being arrested or beaten up, while for the protagonists they were seemingly safe spaces to explore their deepest memories and feelings (as well as their blackest humor). Some of Anwar’s friends realize that the killings were wrong. Others worry about the consequence of the story on their public image. Younger members of Pemuda Pancasila argue that they should boast about the horror of the massacres, because their terrifying and threatening force is the basis of their power today. As opinions diverge, the atmosphere on set grows tense. The edifice of genocide as a “patriotic struggle”, with Anwar and his friends as its heroes, begins to sway and crack. After Anwar plays a victim he says that it was a horrible experience, like the victims must have undergone. The filmmaker points out that it was much worse for the victims, because that was real, and this is only acting. Thus the filmmaking process catalyzes an unexpected emotional journey for Anwar, from arrogance to regret as he confronts, for the first time in his life, the full implications of what he’s done.

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