In the wake of the mid-1960s urban riots, LBJ tasked the Kerner Commission to study their causes, and among their findings: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one Black,
In the wake of the mid-1960s urban riots, LBJ tasked the Kerner Commission to study their causes, and among their findings: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one Black, one white. Separate and unequal.” The Commission recommended that the US aggressively address income inequality and institutional racism. The government instead used federal funds to militarize local police forces. “Riotsvilles” were ersatz “towns” constructed by the military to train police in riot control tactics.
Sierra Pettengill reveals stupefying archival footage featuring soldiers playing both the rioters and police. With trenchant narration written by Tobi Haslett, the film suggests that the opportunity to redress historic grievances was tragically and summarily abandoned, and that the blueprint for escalating police and community tensions was established more than 50 years ago.
With support from the Richard Brick, Geri Ashur, and Sara Bershtel Fund for
Social Justice Documentaries.
91 MINS. USA MAGNOLIA PICTURES
“A mesmerizing documentary essay that tracks American anti-Black racism through a wealth of disturbing, at times super-freaky 1960s archival footage…”
– Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
“The mere existence of these places would be enough fodder for a documentary, but filmmaker Sierra Pettengill (THE REAGAN SHOW) uses the footage of the exercises as a jumping off point to examine how the media covered these uprisings, the report on the phenomenon issued by the Johnson administration, and the way the ’68 political conventions provided a real-life chance to test the military’s theories on actual citizens.”
– David Fear, Rolling Stone
“Riveting…with solemnity, conviction and precision. The impressive essay film, composed entirely of archival material from the late 1960s and footage created by the military, is a sobering look at a distressing reality.”
– Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter
“Traces a damning path to today’s militarization of the police and rhetoric that still
echoes in the halls of power.”
– Alissa Wilkinson, Vox
“This footage of Riotsville, a bizarre piece of unreality that also illustrates the grandiose delusion of American policing, is always presented in disquieting fashion –
it’s worth the price of admission alone.”
– Nick Allen, RogerEbert.com