The Act of Killing director Joshua Oppenheimer with Producer Signe Byrge Sørensen (far left), Christine Cynn, co-director and Jess Search, Chief Executive, BRITDOC. Image courtesy of organizers.
New Directors/New Films '13 feature The Act Of Killing continues to build momentum during this Awards Season. The film by Joshua Oppenheimer won the 2013 Puma Impact Award at a ceremony held at TimesCenter in New York.
[Related Interview: Joshua Oppenheimer Dramatically Exposes Genocide in "The Act Of Killing" ]
The film, which was recently nominated for a European Film Award spotlights a genocide that the world had long forgotten. Oppenheimer turns the lens on the killers, themselves, who brag about their exploits and tell their story through dramatic re-enactments in a cinematic style they have long admired. Their bragging and the fear they still perpetuate in Indonesia, however, appears to unmask underlying regret and personal torment on the part of the men who committed mass crimes against humanity.
The €50,000 award, now in its third year, "celebrates and supports the documentary film that has made the most significant positive impact on society or the environment each year," according to organizers, BRITDOC and Puma. Half the cash prize rewards the filmmakers for their creative efforts, while the other half is channeled to support the ongoing efforts of the film’s campaign for change.
The Jury’s Special Commendation went to The Invisible War by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering. The documentary exposes the epidemic of rape within the U.S. military where one in four women will be sexually assaulted during military service. The film's related campaign aimed to create a national dialogue on the issue of military sexual assault, to effect changes in policy and to spur the military to initiate internal changes. There have been a total of 20 new pieces of legislation introduced to address this issue since the film’s release while President Obama has vowed publicly to “end the scourge of military sexual assault."
"The Act of Killing is a staggering and unique work of art that stands above time and place and will enrich and empower everyone who has the privilege to see it for many years to come," the jury said in a statement. "Its brave brilliance has already led to tremendous impact, almost single handedly opening the painful dialogue on Indonesia’s genocide, which claimed over one million lives. As a film, it has the potential to change the genre, and as art, it resurrects the deep insight into our nature offered by the “banality of evil”. In doing so, its impact moves well beyond Indonesia, providing a contribution to all humanity."
This year's jurors included actress Susan Sarandon, actor and director Gael García Bernal, Avaaz Executive Director Ricken Patel, American journalist and author Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation, Command and Control) and Zadie Smith, Orange Prize-winning author (White Teeth, On Beauty).
The shortlist of five documentaries nominated for the prize included Bully, Give Up Tomorrow, The Interrupters and The Invisible War.