China’s cuddly ultra-nationalists have returned to the stage and, for the first time in recent memory, it’s not about Japan. Now, they are angry over the Oscar nomination for The Act of Killing, a documentary film detailing the 1965-1966 anti-communist purge (known as the “930 Incident”) in Indonesia in which at least 500,000 were killed, including many Chinese.
The film centers on Anwar Congo, a gangster who, despite leading one of the most notorious death squads during the purge, is today considered a national hero. Director Joshua Oppenheimer approached Congo, who is still alive, and proposed that he re-enact the killings any way that he chose: the result, as well as Anwar’s own developing awareness of his actions, became The Act of Killing. See the official trailer here.
After the documentary’s nomination was announced, The People’s Daily published an article saying that “generations of Indonesians were brainwashed” in regards to the 930 incident, and that hopefully the film can help counter these misconceptions.
Chinese internet users took a less diplomatic approach to their criticisms, demanding the Chinese government be tougher on Indonesia, as well as calling for tourism boycotts on Bali, which has become a popular destination for Chinese tourists despite being the center of many of the killings in the 60’s. Shanghai-based consultant Chen Zonghe said, “both Indonesia and China have to step out and offer an explanation for this history.”
Many Chinese have mentioned frustrations at not learning about these killings in the classroom while growing up. As one user pointed out on Weibo: “I was completely surprised after finishing this…I had never once heard a history teacher describe this historical event to me. If China chooses to blind itself, then it makes me an idiot…I believe China is unwilling to depict reality, I really can’t stand it!”
Others have show anger with the fact that the film was a Western production, and not Chinese. One of the top-rated comments underneath the article in The People’s Daily states: “letting foreigners expose this truth is a slap in the face of the Chinese people.”
By Alex Stevens