The Act of Killing Wins Documentary BAFTA; Director Oppenheimer’s Speech Edited Online
The radical documentary, The Act of Killing, won yesterday the Best Documentary prize at the 2014 BAFTA Awards on Sunday night. In his speech, director Oppenheimer thanked his anonymous co-director, who is not able to publicly reveal his or her role in the film, and said the picture “is helping to catalyze a change in how Indonesia talks about its past…”
But one section of Oppenheimer’s speech was omitted from the video, above, that BAFTA posted online. His acceptance speech also included this section:
I urge us all to examine ourselves, and acknowledge that we are all closer to perpetrators than we like to believe. The United Kingdom and United States helped to engineer the genocide, and for decades enthusiastically supported the military dictatorship that came to power through the genocide. We will not have an ethical or constructive relationship with Indonesia (or so many other countries across the global south) going forward, until we acknowledge the crimes of the past, and our collective role in supporting, participating in, and, ultimately, ignoring those crimes.
The role of the CIA and State Department in the Indonesian genocide are discussed in “The Murders of Gonzago,” an essay by the film’s executive producer, Errol Morris, at Slate. Morris interviews Bradley Simpson, a Princeton University professor and author of the book Economists with Guns: Authoritarian Development and U.S.-Indonesian Relations, 1960-1968:
Simpson: The CIA was hoping to use black propaganda and some disbursements of money to try and maneuver the Indonesian Communist Party into a position where they would be tempted to do something stupid—given that the U.S. was actually incredibly weak in Indonesia in 1964 and 1965, and had very few cards to play. The paper trail is a lot clearer and the U.S. role is better documented in terms of what the U.S. knew, how much they were encouraging the Indonesian army, and the degree to which they were providing weapons and economic assistance, with the expectation that this assistance was going to be used to exterminate unarmed Communist Party members.
Morris: Can you talk more about the U.S. role in the killings?
Simpson: It was an extraordinarily rapid genocide and the Johnson administration knew about the events as they unfolded, and they made a very deliberate decision to intervene on the side of the génocidaires. The documentary record is clear-cut. And Kai Bird in his biography of the Bundy brothers has McGeorge Bundy saying, basically, “I have a clear conscience. We knew what we were doing. We did what we were doing because we thought it was the right thing to do, and I sleep easy at night knowing that we played the role that we did.”