The film focuses on the perpetrators of the Indonesian killings of 1965–66 in the present day; ostensibly towards the communist community where almost a million people were killed. When Suharto overthrew Sukarno, the President of Indonesia, following the failed coup of the 30 September Movement in 1965, the gangsters Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry in Medan (North Sumatra) were promoted from selling black market movie theatre tickets to leading the most powerful death squad in North Sumatra. They also extorted money from ethnic Chinese as the price for keeping their lives. Anwar is said to have personally killed 1,000 people.
Today, Anwar is revered as the right wing of a paramilitary organization Pemuda Pancasila that grew out of the death squads. The organization is so powerful that its leaders include government ministers who are openly involved in corruption, election rigging and clearing people from their land for developers.
Invited by Oppenheimer, Anwar recounts his experiences killing for the cameras, and makes scenes depicting their memories and feelings about the killings. The scenes are produced in the style of their favorite films: gangster, western, and musical. Various aspects of Anwar and his friends’ filmmaking process are shown, but as they begin to dramatize Anwar’s own experiences, the fiction scenes begin to take over the film’s form. Oppenheimer has called the result “a documentary of the imagination”.
Some of Anwar’s friends state that the killings were wrong, while others worry about the consequences of the story on their public image.
After Anwar plays a victim, he cannot continue. Oppenheimer, from behind the camera, states that it was worse for the victims because they knew they were going to be killed, whereas Anwar was only acting. Anwar then expresses doubts over whether or not he has sinned, tearfully saying he does not want to think about it. He revisits the rooftop where he claims many of his killings took place, and retches repeatedly. The dancers from the film’s theatrical poster are seen before the credits begin to roll.