Friday, January 10, 2014

What We're Watching - "The Act of Killing"

We invited Dave's Indonesian language class over last night to watch The Act of Killing, a documentary about the death squads in Indonesia following a failed coup in 1965.

The film is visually and surprisingly beautiful, in a surreal way.  The story is gruesome and shocking.  Although the death squads have ceased, their leaders remain in power, brag about modern  extortion and exploitative power and glorify their history of murder.

The director has said that "the film is essentially not about what happened in 1965, but rather about a regime in which genocide has, paradoxically, been effaced [yet] celebrated – in order to keep the survivors terrified, the public brainwashed, and the perpetrators able to live with themselves".

It is less a story about the history of Indonesia or about the modern country, and more about how people live with themselves after killing hundreds people with impugnity.  Its heavy.

I am only slightly interested in Indonesia at this point.  Last evening's party included all people who are studying Indonesian, and me.  They asked if I was studying the language yet.  I couldn't think of a good way to say no.  Amusingly, the conversation soon moved to scuba diving - a great way to spend your weekends in Indonesia.  When asked, I shared my fear of scuba diving (no escape route!) and expressed to these childless new diplomats that I'd rather snorkel on top of the water with my kids.  Empathetically, one gal said she would rather just go down in a submarine - to which I had to reply that I doubt you could pay me to ride in a submarine.  Talk about missing an escape route!  The conversation turned away from me and my many fears at that point.  I may not have made the strongest first impression.

So, I learned that Dave's classmates are very nice but have very little in common with me (they looked confused when we pulled Felicity: An American Girl out of the DVD player).  I learned that Indonesia may have some issues with multiculturalism and revisionist history.  And watching a scene with someone driving a car, I learned that in Indonesia people drive on the left!  So, in Jakarta we will face some of the world's worst traffic and some of the world's heaviest pollution... all with the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car!


Nomads By Nature said...

I'm sorry you had a disconcerting evening. You will find the families who have had experiences of prior bumpy tours with children and who will accept you totally for who you are and wherever you are at on the falling in love with Indonesia scale or language proficiency. Give it time and be gentle on yourself. From reading your past blogs entries I think you have your priorities right on your relationships. The rest will fall into place.

Lainie McKeating said...

So excited that you all are heading down our way! Be encouraged, Jakarta has a lot of savor.