By Gregory Crofton
I had my suspicions after I saw the ladies in pink dancing next to the mouth of a massive fish sculpture, but I went to the theater and watched the film anyway because Errol Morris and Werner Herzog, two great documentary filmmakers, had highly recommended it.
I’m glad I didn’t have to sit through a longer director’s cut of this documentary. The shorter theatrical version I saw is too long. Granted it is an important story to tell — the murder of more than a million “communists” by paramilitary thugs in Indonesia in the late 1960s. But to me there is not enough story, or enough history presented, to engage the audience through its two-hour running time.
There are lots of theatrics, real theatrics, as the director, Joshua Oppenheimer, got the murderers — gangsters (a word used to describe in Indonesia “truly free men”) — to reenact their crimes, but it’s a slow-moving and single-minded piece. Same characters, same crimes. Plus at the start of the film, there’s footage of Oppenheimer explaining his work, warning that the story he captured will likely unsettle you. Blah. No thanks.