Madman plots The Act of Killing release

14 June, 2013 by Don Groves

When Madman Entertainment’s Paul Wiegard bought The Act of Killing at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival he had no idea the film would be one of the most controversial and impactful at the Sydney Film Festival.

There were stunned reactions from audiences and critics to the film’s portrayal of the slaughter of alleged Communists, ethnic Chinese and intellectuals by Indonesian death squads in 1965.  US director Joshua Oppenheimer, who lives in Copenhagen and dare not set foot again in Indonesia, was on hand to introduce his film and take part in Q&A sessions.


“I had nightmares and insomnia filming some recreations,” Oppenheimer said on Twitter. “I made the film to expose, and what needs to happen now is a process of justice – truth and reconciliation.”

Now Wiegard is figuring out the optimum launch date and which of the three versions to release. He’ll set the date after the film has played widely on the festival circuit, reasoning that exposure will help spread awareness and encourage cinemagoers to see a film which is challenging and disturbing.

“There are certain films where, walking in, it’s better to know little or nothing so you watch with completely fresh eyes as the story unfolds,” he told IF. “In this case it’s critical to have a sense of the politics and the backdrop and what you will be seeing. It’s something you have not seen before on screen.”

Wiegard said he will probably release the version that screened at the Sydney fest and a shorter cut for TV screening. “It will take an informed audience to appreciate the film but I think it will have a long run in cinemas,” he said.

Typifying the reviews, SBS Films’ Lynden Barber said, “The Act of Killing is one of these exceedingly rare films that changes the way people see the world. Having sat through its riveting 159 minutes with lower jaw almost permanently dropped in disbelief, I can state confidently I’m unlikely to ever forget it.”

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Garry Maddox opined, ” It's a film that raises potent questions about the short jump from banal daily life to mass murder, about how history can turn perpetrators of war crimes into heroes and whether good really does triumph over evil.”

Wiegard is excited about The Turning, the omnibus film based on Tim Winton’s collection of short stories, which Madman will co-distribute with producer/director Robert Connolly’s CinemaPlus.

The all-star cast includes Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Miranda Otto, Richard Roxburgh, Hugo Weaving, Callan Mulvey, Brenna Harding, Dan Wyllie, Susie Porter, Harrison Gilbertson and Robyn Nevin. Among the directors are Blanchett, Tony Ayres, Claire McCarthy, Mia Wasikowska, Connolly, David Wenham and Justin Kurzel.

“It’s a big, bold cinematic event,” said Wiegard, who will announce the release date after its world premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival.