Social Activist Nadine Hoover discussed the mass killings that took place in Indonesia between 1965 and 1966 on Oct. 23 in Alfred University’s Judson Leadership Center.
“It has been about 50 years since the killings in Indonesia,” Hoover said. “And soon those responsible will die never facing trial for their actions.”
Hoover’s discussion, attended by several members of the Alfred community, followed the viewing of a documentary titled The Act of Killing. The viewings took place on Oct. 21 at Alfred State and Oct. 22 at AU.
The documentary began explaining the Indonesian military coup of 1965 which overthrew the government. Following the coup there was purge of the country’s “communists,” in reality the mass killings of the ethnically Chinese in Indonesia as well as anyone who stood against the new government. Thugs and criminals were hired by new government to become their personal killing force.
The documentary followed Anwar Congo a man who proudly boasts about killing communists, he is challenged to re-create his crimes on film in any style he wants, including Broadway musical. As he watches and takes part in these re-creations, he seems to become aware for the first time that he has committed horrible crimes, such as slaughtering a whole village and strangling dissenters with metal wire. By the end of the documentary, he is seen becoming physically ill due to his new-found knowledge.
The Act of Killing then focused on Indonesia today and how massacre perpetrators are now running the country. They are portrayed as abusing their power and shamelessly covering up their own crimes.
Hoover’s post-documentary talk focused on the difficulties of making this controversial documentary, the U.S. government’s involvement in the 1956-66 uprising and massacre and the generational post-traumatic stress suffered by victims and perpetrators alike.
“This documentary took the director eight years to make,” Hoover said. “He faced nearly constant interference from the Indonesian government.”
The U.S. government helped fund the military coup, which is detailed in the documentary. For example, Congo would boast in the documentary how his styles of killing were based off of American films he had seen.
Hoover pointed out how many of the scenes of violence in the documentary were followed by scenes of empty shopping malls, as if the director was trying to say that this was the final result of the coup. The U.S. government gave the coup leaders money to build new structures, but now there is no one left to enjoy them.
According to Hoover, The Act of Killing focuses on the killers realizing the horrors of their past, but it does not shy away from the psychological impacts that the massacre had on the Indonesian people.
Killers and survivors, not actors, acted out these scenes of murder and, Hoover explained, that doing so was the perfect way to contract Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which can lead to multiple personalities, amnesia, and other mental health problems.
Hoover continued that not only does the massacre affect those who lived through it, but it influences future generations as well. It has been scientifically proven that if a child sees his parent experiencing post-traumatic stress he will be likely to experience it as well, added Hoover.
“Say you were eight when the killings happened,” she said. “You move on, and start your own family. But on the day your first child turns eight, subconsciously you remember the killings and become angry and scared, which passes onto the child.”
Hoover concluded that it is important to be aware of what happens in our world so tragedies like the 1965-66 Indonesia uprising will not be repeated.
“If nothing is done, this abuse will repeat itself for generations,” said Hoover.