Working through "The Act of Killing" - a matter of judgment?

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Working through "The Act of Killing" - a matter of judgment?

Title: Working through "The Act of Killing" - a matter of judgment?
Author: Köberich, Anna Frederike
Issue Date: 2014-08-31
Keywords: reflective judgment
Deleuze's ethics
narratives of mass atrocities
perpetrators in focus
law and film
Abstract: When confronted with laws that ignore, reinforce or legitimise violence, the possibility to judge seems to be put into question, since there are no rules to rely upon to avert that violence. On the other hand, judgment is crucial since it might be a way to counter such circumstances of corrupt law and stop ongoing injustice. This paradoxical issue is prominent in the case study of this thesis, the documentary film "The Act of Killing" (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012). Dealing with the mass killings of Indonesia in 1965/66, the film opens a case that has been concealed since its occurrence and never taken to court. This is despite the events being characterised as ‘crimes against humanity’ by human rights organisations. I propose that by documenting how the perpetrators of the killings re-enact their deeds by means of stage-play, the film poses a theatrical trial that at the same time evokes, eludes and performs judgment or evaluation of the killings. Drawing back on theory by Hannah Arendt and Gilles Deleuze, I argue that the film stimulates political judgment that is informed by the tension between critical distance and affect, which may be a productive method for citizens to deal with mass atrocities and present corruption. Moreover, exceeding the realms of structured societies, the film as a work of art performs an ‘immanent evaluation’ that acknowledges victims and perpetrators equally and challenges clear boundaries in favour of a continuous becoming of bodies. As such it allows us to productively and reparatively rethink the notion of judgment outside the confinements of law as ambiguous and ongoing process.
Supervisor: Korsten, Frans-Willem
Faculty: Faculty of HumanitiesResearch master thesis
Department: Literary Studies (Research master)
Specialisation: Literary Studies
ECTS Credits: 25

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