Approaching the finish line

Weekend TAD meeting with obligatory dominos pizza

After finally finding an open room at Strand on a Saturday we watched the sun go down (and Philipp doing push ups) while going through different strategies how to present our take on achieving interdisciplinarity. We revised again our overlapping points of our riffs and afterwards Georgia and I reflected again how to best present our idea of value at hand of meaning in the library. TAD meeting

We allocated the last tasks before our presentation

To Do list:

finalize Power Point (Pia)

Handout (Evan)

Send 3 bullet points+ sources (everyone)


Video titles upload (Philipp)

Video upload (Philipp)

Write up sections for presentation + Time sections (everyone)

(send Overlap points or personal struggle of finding interdisciplinarity if Georgia and I have further questions)


Meeting Monday noon


finding an interdisciplinary ‘duct-tape’- (Update 26.2)

We formerly discussed to assess interdisciplinarity and our theme value at hand of the movie ‘the Act of Killing’ by outlining how our individual discipline (Film, History, Philosophy and Geography) values the movie (differently) and what distinctive contribution our discipline can offer to enhance the understanding of the documentary. Nevertheless, Georgia wrote an email prior to our Friday weekly meeting before reading week, pointing out that our group is missing as she stated it a ‘duct tape`- namely the element that would unify our disciplines with regards to the medium. Previously, during our brainstorming in the first week we identified the element of re-enactment as a reoccurring element or foundation of ‘the Act of Killing’ and during our follow up meeting we also regarded the act of killing in ‘the Act of Killing’ as a potential unifying element. We realized that finding a topic within the movie, instead of choosing the movie as the topic itself to demonstrate different values of our disciplines is crucial to reflect and especially compare how each of our disciplines interacts with the theme and perhaps better evaluate differences and similarities in our approaches across our departments.


When we gathered together the following Friday Chris also strongly encouraged us to question to what extent the topic does not just unify us but also contemplate how several disciplinary approaches can provide a potential academic added value illuminating or portraying the movie in an extensive way by demonstrating not just multidisciplinarity but in fact interdisciplinarity. Nevertheless, we struggled to find common ground how to not just state each individual disciplinary approach but also elaborate on how the different disciplines could relate to each other to show not just several individual viewpoints but a unified overall perspective and thus perhaps provide a representative case study emphasizing how studying Liberal Arts offers not just a distinctive approach when it comes to assessing a movie but offers a unique worldview in general.


But since we had not compared our individual statement pieces yet it was evidently troublesome to predict what duct tape would be most suitable to show disciplinary interrelations among all our disciplines (if this is even possible).  After a lengthy discussion, we arrived at the temporary conclusion of attempting to form a circle of relationships demonstrating how our individual discipline would interlink with one other group members discipline opposed to finding one overall theme that relates to all other disciplines represented in our group. My element of Geography concerning re-enactment might relate to Georgia’s aspect of re-enacting historic events such as the Indonesian genocide, while Evans aspect of film builds its knowledge partially on retrieving knowledge from a historic context. The inclusion of Phillips discipline, Philosophy was especially challenging since it perhaps better serves as a universal approach to consider re-enactment as opposed to aligning to one other specific discipline. To what degree a circle format showing the disciplines relationships to one other as opposed to obstructing a common relationship or unifying aspect is efficient, remains to be seen and can be better judged upon after the personal statements have been prepared.






The Act of Filming

This weekend we started filming our video presentation. We met at Pia’s apartment, armed with Philipp’s camera and equipment from King’s TV.

On Friday we brainstormed our monologues, trying to find connections – or ‘riffs’ – between them. Based on which ideas linked up the best, we decided on the order of Evan (me), Philipp, Georgia, and then Pia. Each monologue will build on the previous one, making the presentation not just multidisciplinary but interdisciplinary. Certain lines had to be cut and we also added new ones to make our presentation smoother, clearer, and more precise.

We rearranged the furniture in Pia’s apartment to create a set that looked like an intellectual’s hangout, complete with academic books, candles, and empty bottles. The odd time there had to be a bit of strategic hiding – like with the bag of chocolates.


The stage is set

Using a lamp and natural light from the window, we created a warm atmosphere that is clear to see on camera. We each found that we had trouble delivering our writing as spoken word, and often had to do several takes. However, the more we did it, the more comfortable we became with speaking directly into the lens. I have a newfound respect for broadcasters!


Phillip – Steadicam maestro

Phillip also took shots from different angles to make the video more engaging. We also have plenty of B-roll footage of us practicing our speeches, dressing the set, and watching the actual documentary. All of this will create a meta reenactment effect – similar to what can be found in ‘The Act of Killing.’


Doesn’t get much more meta than this…

Considering we had only recently finished writing our monologues a few days before, we were efficient and productive. Our next challenge is to polish the live section of our presentation, which we will do next week.


The Gang Tries to Upload Their Meeting Memos

For ‘security reasons’ I cannot upload our audio-mpeg files / the recordings of our meetings. I even trimmed them (for the required MB minimum), although I can’t get to the bottom of this mystery. The blog must not like my type of audio files????

I have the audio ready to send to anyone who might help turn them into a different form to upload them.

I have over 60mins of classic group meeting material. What a shame. And this blog is such a hassle media wise (I hope they see this!)


Kind regards,


The Moral Psychology of Reenactment

Here finally comes my text folks… Looking forward to make a film with ye tommorow 🙂


The core fascination of the film is a moral catastrophy: the viewer asks herself how it is possible that people are proud of murder, torture, and rape. The fact that this is so fascinating presupposes that that there is some standard psychological code of conduct appropriate to all healthy human beings. The film depends for its effect on an audience that can´t believe what they are seeing because it seems so psychologically implausible – so this must be an audience that somehow has the right moral compass.

The film juxtaposes a situation that is seemingly impossible in terms of moral psychology with a standard of appropriate moral psychology. And this psychological divergence, this psychological cleft is not just cultural or subjective preference: in its crushingness, the film depends on the thought that any healthy human being would have to react disapprovingly to the actions shown in it. It is a juxtaposition between what is presented as an objectively right psychological standard and an objectively wrong psychological condition.

The driving dramatic force of the film also depends on this cleft – the film is roughly structured around the transformation of protagonist Anwar Congo. He starts into the film by proudly showing off his deeds to the camera and then begins developing self-doubts. He even asks the documentarian Oppenheimer “Josh, is it wrong what we did?”
It seems that the re-enactments of the genocide function as a process of reckoning and of self-recognition for him. This process of recognition is primarily shown to be psychological in the film. As such, it is empirical – it is a matter of science what people actually feel. But the empirical moral sentiment is inextricably linked with ideas of how the world should ideally be. In the face of such gruelling evil and in contrast to such gruelling evil, the film seems to suggest that there must be some objective ethical standard we can agree on. The cathartic effect of the film hinges on the comfort that is in the thought of objective moral standards. The idea that we can recognise the fundamental wrongness of evil and that there is an objective truth is the great hope of the film, this is the element of the film that provides solace, that allows us faith in humanity.

Drafts of Ideas, Feedback on Drafts of Ideas – The Scientific Method of Translating Across Disciplines

As we move toward the filming date for our project, it is time to put all the ideas we have had into writing, so that we can narrate our film with these individual contributions. We have decided that we will all be concentrating on the aspect of reenactment in The Act of Killing. Here come our first drafts on this. I (Philipp) have the role of an editor at the moment because I am designated to write the epilogue, so I had to read the others texts before writing mine –  but I also used the chance to write up some feedback on the other´s contributions.
At this point, the schedule is as follows:
1. Tommorow, Wed 15th of March, 1pm: Meeting at Strand to finalise the texts and coordinate them for the film.
2. Saturday/Sunday film the film on the reenacting aspect of the film that reenacts historical reality.
3. Philipp edits the film on the on the reenacting aspect of the film that reenacts historical reality.
4. Fri 24th of March, 3pm: we configure the reflective part of the presentation.
5. On that weekend we run a dress rehearsal of the presentation
6. Tue 28th of March: We present!!!

Georgia – Historical Narratives and Reenactment

This documentary is a window into a horrific period of Indonesian history, the 1965 massacres, and it is a mirror reflecting the difficulties of a society in confronting the past.
[can give historical detail of 1965, PKI v New Order – if Evan’s section lacks it, ideally his section should provide subtitle of film’s subject]

Joshua Oppenheimer’s use of re-enactment is impressively done—as a central device and theme. However we can locate this documentary in a history of re-enactments, or re-stagings of 1965. In the first instance, these re-stagings emerged to prop-up the New Order’s military regime. Then in the wake of their fall in 1998 re-stagings of 1965 were a destabilising force, or a way to provide a counter hegemonic narrative.

So how did the state restage the events of 1965 to favour them and disgrace the communists? “1965” has long appeared in New Order discourse as a trope signifying threat, betrayal, and anti-nationalism. The nationalists established a hegemonic national narrative of a communist Goliath versus a republican David, replicating the narrative of western countries in their containment of the USSR. So first and foremost, Oppenheimer draws on the state’s use of re-enactment to create and sustain its official narrative.

The Israeli historian, Ariel Heryanto, has written much about national memory and genocide. On the subject of the Indonesian massacre he reminds us that the consistent triggering of traumatic memory through reenactment or restaging was effective in discouraging or neutralizing potential opposition throughout the New Order period:

We can see this restaging of official narrative in the documentary. [Congo Anwar] and his entourage attend a party rally under the banner of Pemuda Pancasila, the youth wing of a major paramilitary organization. Like most [nationalist parties] they renew this heroic narrative by parading and speech-making that centres on crushing, expelling, or exterminating the PKI, and in doing so they restage former glories.

In this documentary however re-enactment has the opposite effect to the one the killer’s desire –
There’s a scene midway where the son of a murdered communist plays the role of his father, tortured and executed decades earlier by the killers playing themselves. It’s emotionally tense as he gives his account of the night his father vanished to possibly his (real life killers) in the scene.

Executioner [Adi Zulkadry] reminds the other killers
If the film is a success, it will disprove all the propaganda about the communists being cruel. And show that we were cruel! We must understand every step we take here. It’s not about fear, it’s about image, the whole society will say: We always suspected it.

When the state had utilised re-enactment so well to prop itself up for decades, why does it have the opposite effect in this documentary? The simple answer is a shift in social and political context. The regime fell in 1998 heralding an age of more open broadcasting and press media. In particular, the rise of human rights culture in East Asian from the 90s through the millennium provided political indonesians a [mandare] to examine the massacre in a humanitarian context – terms like ‘crimes against humanity’ , ‘war crimes’, ‘genocide’ and ‘state sanctioned torture’ began to enter Indonesian political discourse.

Immediately before this documentary–– there was a storytelling based erosion of the official narrative in the form of personal accounts. We must not forget that storytelling is the most basic form of restaging events and personalities.

For instance,
Anthropologist Robert Lemelson’s documentary, 40 Years of Silence (2009), explores some of the same themes as The Act of Killing, but from the perspective of the victims of the anti-PKI[communist] slaughter.

Accounts of 1965 in the form of novels, biographies, scholarly and media articles, many of them Indonesian, have begun to painstakingly reconstruct the local dynamics of the mass killings––including North Sumatra, the focus of Oppenheimer’s film––they have an investigative purpose.

It must be stressed that most Indonesians are disassociated from this secret history, and also how dangerous it is to facilitate a counter-narrative and tarnish national memory. Most of the the on location crew did not wish to be credited, ‘Anonymous’ is supplied instead.

As I say, this film must be situated within the long history of re-staging and re-enactment to fully comprehend its profundity. We should not underestimate the modest dent that brave individuals have made in the official history which has led to the possibility of Oppenheimer’s film.

Pia – Human Geography of Power

Joshua Oppenheimer primarily intended to unravel events and social as well as spatial implications of the Indonesian genocide by accompanying and interviewing exiled and fled communist farmers. But he soon realized he was unable to gain valuable insights about the genocide by interviewing the victims since they are unable to freely visit historic spaces relating to the genocide and particularly cannot speak about the atrocities that occurred at the spaces without putting themselves at risk. Instead, Oppenheimer discovered that he was only able to access knowledge about the genocide through the element of re-enactment, instrumentalised by the perpetrators which were, on the other hand, able to easily inhabit, move through and talk about spaces that could be brought into context with the genocide.

As Human Geographer J. Pickles (2004) has pointed out, space perception and conception of spatiality, in this case between victims and perpetrators demonstrates the power divide and reinforcement of current hierarchy. In the documentary, the silence and immovability of victims in contrast to the outspokenness and mobility of the perpetrators expressed through re-enactment in space clearly reveal, when analysed in terms of Human Geography spatial vocabularies of power (Short 2004). The production and performance through space of power where a rarely seen glorification of the act of killing is able to prevail can be perhaps best understood by tracing the mobilization and effects of power over space (Allen 2003).

Evan – Reenactment in the Act of Killing in the context of other reenactments in documentaries

The Act of Killing is a 2012 documentary directed by Joshua Oppenheimer. It follows the individuals involved in the 1955-56 killings in Indonesia as they attempt to reenact the murders they carried out. What’s special about the film is that the viewer is given a glimpse into the preparation for the reenactments, almost like a behind-the-scenes look at what went into the making of the documentary. This meta aspect of the film allows us to see and hear the perpetrators as they ruminate and come to terms with what they did as they try to recreate what happened. This stands in contrast to other documentaries that simply show audiences the reenactments of the events they were dealing with. Many critics will argue that reenactments in documentaries put filmmakers in danger of capturing historical inaccuracies on film, that they are too melodramatic to have any real impact on the audience’s understanding of the events, or that they are too subjective.

Phil – Feedback and Structural Thoughts…

Ok folks, interesting interesting.

I read all the texts and have some thoughts to consider for tommorow. First of all some general things.
1. We should avoid all too academic language (furthermore, moreover) because we will be giving these as spoken word statements, not essays and it will be lame if we read them off.
2. They all need to be the same length and have a somewhat similar style.
3. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: I think before starting our monologues, we should introduce briefly what our subject discipline can bring to the discussion of this aspect. We need to keep in mind that primarily, we are showcasing the possibilities for our discipline here…
Something like: My name is Franz and I will be looking at the element of reenactment in the Act of Killing from the perspective of history because the discipline of history allows us to consider Oppenheimer´s reenactments in the context of the historiography of genocide.
(Something like that but less wordy)

Georgia: I think the crucial element to focus on here is historical narrative. I think the point is that the reenactment of the genocide in the film facilitated by Oppenheimer brings out the truth, whereas the state propaganda of previous years obscured the truth? This is a good point and one worth focusing on.
But you use the words restaging and reenactment ambiguously throughout – strictly speaking they mean playacting an event that has previously taken place. Do you mean to say that is what the government did? If not, what is it that they did? “When the state had utilised re-enactment” you say – have they though? Surely they just misrepresented past events in speech and images? Propaganda and reenactment are not at all the same thing.
The text is quite long and I would try and cut as much as possible, but hammer in the importance of the reeanctments of genocide in the film in the historical narrative.

Pia: Fancy geo terms haha, that´s what we need, subject specific analysis – but what on earth do they mean and why is it relevant? It seems that you are clouding the film in some subject framework – but how does this help our understanding of the film? Also, you say like 1 sentence about each of these theories each – I feel like that is not enough to do them justice or understand what they are about at all. And the first paragraph does not seem to be all that necessary because it only restates what will have been said by Evan – so I think focus entirely on the geo talk – but legitimise it, explain it?

Evan: Nice, very good intro, nothing in it that I would criticise – but I think it is too short, this could be twice as long. COnsider this: you will be first, so you will introduce the subject of analysis on a merely descriptive basis, but you must also bring in your own disciplinary analysis. There is a bit of both in your text – but I also think there could be more of both, espcially of film studies relevant analysis.

Informal Group Meeting Wed 08/03

Topic: Trying different ways of making our ideas converge on the text, The Act of Killing. And in doing so, attempting to move from an multidisciplinary mode to an interdisciplinary mode. 


Designating a thesis method: a bit unsuccessful, one will come up naturally when we’ve prepared our responses to the text

The ‘Riffing off’ method: more successful than the thesis method, it feels more organic and it’s easier to see where our views converge.

Film studies as the point of origin for a good riff:

Evan’s discipline of film studies is closest to the object we’re talking about – the film.  We found that when he started the riff Pia and I could relate and continue his riff, it might be not be a  coincidence that this happened, film studies students have to consistently engage with their text/ object, the theme Evan found that he was focusing on was re-enactment. Providing comparisons with other similar documentary’s with some form of re-enactment at the center – apparently this is a very meta thing for cinema.

Georgia continued the riff on the potential impact that this re-enactment in The Act of Killing has on national memory of the Indonesian genocide, relating to how history is written and affirmed to be true version of events (consensus history). There are parallels to the unmaking and making (consensus or otherwise) of other mass murders/ genocides.

Pia continued Evan and Georgia’s Riff, considering the local and global formation of historical narrative [this is not a faithful transcript of how Pia framed this]. She told us how the director of The Act of Killing originally envisioned his project to be local and focused on the victims of the genocide, they didn’t want to talk about it – it’s a suppressed narrative, those who own the means of constructing the narrative are the more powerful anti-communist, nationalist groups.  We riffed a bit about the global communist narrative, its exploitation in Indonesian political affairs in the mid-to late 20thC, to attack communists.

gerund or present participle: riffing
  1. play riffs.
    “the other horns would be riffing behind him”
    • perform a monologue or spoken improvisation on a particular subject.
      e.g. “he also riffs on racism and the economy”

(Also these definitions of riffing incidentally go with the monologues we intended to do to present our research.)


The benefit of having a philosophical epilogue:

Philosophical is a good style for many epilogues, it should broaden out our theme (re-enactment) when a specific philosophical concern is explored. Philip realizes that it’s easier for Evan, Pia and Georgia to riff off of each other because the text and theme has something to offer  historical, geographical and film studies concerns while the text does not explicitly appeal to any philosophical concerns. So, Philip might concern himself with morality/ evil, or to a question relating to those [this is not an entirely faithful transcript of what Philip said]

A Meeting with Chris – Things Move Forward

In our friday meeting with Chris we first pitched our project – a short film in which each of us presents a monologue analysing the 2012 documentary “The Act of Killing” from their disciplinary perspective. Hence, we would draw unnaturally sharp boundaries between disciplines so as to highlight the value of each discipline in its purest appearance. Simultaneously, this would demonstrate the value of interdisciplinary work through the case study of the documentary.

Chris particularly emphasized some of the requirements of the presentation format. Hence, we now plan to begin our presentation with the screening of our film. Then we will (in reality, not on tape) discuss the process of making the film and cast light on the disciplinary methods to demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of our work.

One challenge that resurfaced during our discussion was the inexorable vagueness and ambiguity of the term “value”. In order to prevent these ills from overspilling  to our presentation, we will define the term clearly as used by us and then refrain from using it equivocally. It is all too tempting to use the word in a different sense in every second sentence of our presentation – but this precisely would render it incomprehensible.

Our task now is clear: each of us has to select a suitable area of discussion from “The Act of Killing” that will highlight the methodology of their particular discipline best. Moreover, we have to select suitable academic materials for this discussion. The set date for filming our little fil is the second weekend after reading week.


Notes from meeting on 03/02/2017

Today we met at 3PM in the Strand courtyard, but decided to move inside as it was getting a bit chilly!

It was our first meeting as a full group – unfortunately Pia was unable to make it the previous week. She was a breath of fresh air and brought a lot of new ideas and enthusiasm to the project. We had been struggling with finding much overlap beyond our theme, ‘Value’, but with her contribution as a geographer we started to find more common ground (no pun intended).

We started brainstorming possibilities for the project, including making a video montage of interviews with King’s students, asking them if they saw the value in an interdisciplinary approach to learning and academia. We even entertained the idea of including memes in our presentation! Although we each had some interesting suggestions we weren’t really making much progress. We started to think more about what ‘value’ meant to each of us, how we could tie all of our ideas together, and what our main research object would be…

And then, in a moment of inspiration, Phillip suggested we analyse the 2012 documentary ‘The Act of Killing’, which follows a group of individuals who participated in the Indonesian killings that took place from 1965 to 1966. It seemed to be a great fit, as it would allow each of us to focus on a certain aspect of the documentary, coming from our respective disciplines of Philosophy, Geography, History, and Film.

Having decided what our primary source would be – the documentary – we then started to think about how we could present our findings. We all agreed that the best way to do it would be to make a short film featuring all of us speaking about our interpretations and research related to the film. Phillip mentioned that he had a high quality video camera – as well as editing software – and Pia volunteered her microphone to be used during production. The equipment was secured!

We then determined that it would be best to watch the film all together: we could discuss our thoughts directly afterwards, it would boost team morale, and it would give us an excuse to eat pizza. The plan was to watch the film at Pia’s flat on Thursday.

All in all it was a very fruitful meeting, as we decided on our research project’s primary source, we chose our method of presenting our work, and we grew closer as a team.