TV Listings | A macabre masterpiece

Pick of the week: The Act of Killing (SVT1, Tue 22:00 or Wed 23:45)

It is rare when a film transcends both its medium and the idiosyncrasies of its subject matter to become a universally potent experience, relevant to every human who watches it, regardless of their nationality, class or personal history.

The Act of Killing is one such experience. A mid-60s attempted coup in Indonesia − which was thwarted and possibly organised by the military − led to widespread fear of an imminent communist uprising. The government then hired thugs − or gangsters, as they still view themselves today − to start a systematic genocide of all suspected communists and communist sympathisers. As many as a million people were raped or murdered.  

Full credit goes to director Joshua Oppenheimer and his collaborators for finding a unique perspective on a national trauma that is so deeply rooted that many Indonesians can, or will, not talk about it. By interviewing the perpetrators – who think they are going to be portrayed as Indonesian Al Pacinos or Robert De Niros in a film about the atrocities in which they are the heroes – they are able to delve far deeper into the genocide than one might expect from talking to the victims. The thugs are boastful and more than willing to contribute fully to the process. Of course there is no such film, just the one we are watching.
In most films, we see a battle between good and evil. Here is a film that presents us with a much more complex and challenging view of the world: a frighteningly real one that is far from being fictional. There is no good. There is vulnerability, self-delusion and humanity − because humanity, we learn, can also be uniquely evil, and each of us has the potential for it.
The film’s masterstroke is revealing these monsters as human, and therefore recognisable. This is how it manages to touch us − and in doing so, the film transcends its medium.

-Mark Walker

Also New:

A week of moving docs start with No Fire Zone (SVT2, Sun 22:10 or DR2, Thu 23:00), an account of the killing fields of Sri Lanka that cost around 70,000 lives in the recent civil war. While another 2013 doc, Power, Money, Greed & Oil (DR2, Tue 20:30), depicts a black gold rush in Ghana, offering a poignant view on capitalism.  

But perhaps the biggest tear-jerker is My New Brain (K4, Wed 23:55), the tale of a young man who after suffering a brain trauma can’t properly function. “Simon’s dazed awareness of the distance he still had to travel made you want to weep,” observed the Independent. “Weirdly, his sense of humour seems unaffected … and he’s pretty funny now,” noted the Guardian.

Elsewhere, there’s the intriguing The Presidents’ Gatekeepers (Discovery, Sun 22:00), which includes interviews with every living Chief of Staff; and 2010 doc Only When I Dance (DRK, Fri 00:10), which is like Billy Elliot but set in the favelas of Rio. (BH)

Coming Soon: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Scoring a steady 70 on Metacritic, the show stars Andy Samberg from Saturday Night Live as a gifted but immature (what do you expect from someone who wrote songs like ‘Motherlover’ and ‘I just had sex’) NYPD detective whose life is upturned by the arrival of a new no-nonsense captain.

“The two men play well off one another,” writes the Washington Post. “And a skilled supporting cast ensures that Brooklyn Nine-Nine doesn’t devolve into Samberg overload.”

It’s more than a cheap laugh at serious police shows since it also depicts the rest of the precinct as they try to go about their daily lives. It’s a breath of fresh air from all the family-based sitcoms, and to add tension to the show, the producers decided to give the cast real firearm training. And it was all fun and games until somebody shot himself in the foot! (ROV)

Sport of the week:

Thank the French for Friday footy as big-spending Monaco, who lost their first league game last week (against second-placed Lille) to trail PSG by three points, seek to make amends against Evian, where Denmark’s Daniel Wass plies his trade (TV3 Sport 1, Fri 20:30 French Ligue One: Monaco vs Evian). Elsewhere, the top NFL game is New Orleans Saints vs Dallas Cowboys (TV3+, Sun 02:20); there’s the Under-17s World Cup Final (Eurosport, Fri 16:00); the Valencia MotoGP(TV3 Sport 1, Sun 13:30); and a chance to see the standard of the J-League when Vegalta Sendai take on Urawa Reds (Eurosport, Sun 11:00). (BH)

Film of the week:

Is it a good sign if you’ve partially seen a film, but can’t remember a single scene from it, probably because it stars Paul Rudd and Jason Segal, who are in everything. In I love you man (K5, Fri 21:30) they have an unlikely bromance as Rudd searches for his perfect best man. Yes, that is probably the worst premise ever. And what is it about Mark Wahlberg and bad buddy cop films. In The Other Guys (TV3+, Mon 21:05), he and Will Ferrell are “mismatched”. And the box office agreed. Bad chemistry failed to derail Red though (SVT1, Fri 22:00), but then again, Helen Mirren is God. (BH)

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