An in-depth masterclass with Joshua Oppenheimer, discussing the making of The Act of Killing with Penny Woolcock

Disturbing, surreal and entirely engrossing, The Act of Killing has been making waves as much for its daring originality as for its chilling content. Joshua Oppenheimer dedicated a decade of his life to creating this beautiful, terrible vision, finding that in a society where glorified mass-murderers live amongst the families of their victims, he had to find a new kind of filmmaking to get to the heart of his subject matter.

By working with the perpetrators of the 1960s Indonesian genocide to re-enact their crimes in the glamorous, hyper-real style of Hollywood movies, Oppenheimer broke all the rules of documentary filmmaking, creating a genre-bending hybrid that is piercing on both a factual and emotional level.

A special screening of the director’s cut of The Act of Killing was followed by an in-depth masterclass with Joshua Oppenheimer, in conversation with Penny Woolcock, on the motivations, revelations, method and meaning of this powerful, controversial and boundary-pushing film.

Joshua Oppenheimer

Joshua’s award-winning films include The Globalisation Tapes (2003, co-directed with Christine Cynn) and The Entire History of the Louisiana Purchase (1998). He is the artistic director of the Centre for Documentary and Experimental Film at the University of Westminster, and he has worked for over a decade with militias, death squads and their victims to explore the relationship between political violence and the public imagination.

Penny Woolcock

Penny has been known for her innovative approach to difficult subjects since her breakthrough film Tina Goes Shopping (1999); a BAFTA-nominated, collaborative piece made with the real residents of a Leeds council estate. In subsequent years she has continued to move between documentary and fiction, often blurring the two, with films including the street-cast ‘hip-hop opera‘ 1 Day (2009), and her latest documentary One Mile Away, which won Best British Feature at Edinburgh Film Festival 2012.