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  • ferguson-612 September 2022
    Greetings again from the darkness. A couple of old sayings came to mind while watching this. "The more things change, the more they stay the same." This ties together what we see from the 1960's with what we've seen very recently in the U. S. Next would be, "You made your bed, now sleep in it." This references the manner in which our government reacted to civil unrest in the 1960s has affected our society for the past 50+ years.

    Documentarian Sierra Pettingill utilizes only archival footage from TV (newscasts and talk shows) and military footage filmed during the era. The clips are edited in a way to tell the story of how the government responded to increased civil unrest, and how those responses not only made the situation worse, it also set the table for ongoing societal issues for decades to come.

    Historical background includes President Lyndon Johnson forming the Kerner Commission (officially The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders), and how the resulting 700 page 1968 report did not provide the conclusions expected by the government. It warned of two societies - one white, one black, separate and unequal. The corresponding action items were deemed too expensive due to the ongoing Vietnam War. Instead an addendum suggested expanded federal funding for police ... that one hit home with politicians.

    Much of the footage, as well as the film's title, comes from the model town constructed by the military at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. It's here where training sessions occurred with military personnel cast as rioters and law enforcement learned the approaches to quell the uprising. Unfortunately, most of these approaches involved law enforcement escalation during civil unrest, leaving us wondering which causes the most damage. We even see military leaders observing the drills from the grandstands, applauding and laughing in some parts. It's impossible not to notice that these are all white faces.

    Further escalation and federal funding resulted in specialty tanks, and we see the training videos around this weapon. At its core, what we see is a simulated riot in a simulated city. It's easy to view this as training hate and power, rather than learning de-escalation techniques. Director Pettingill also includes clips from PBL (precursor to PBS) talk shows like "Civil Disorder". These shows, and their debates, caused Ford Motor Company to withdraw funding in 1969. The news clips from the 1968 Democrat and Republican conventions provide some insight into the reporting during this era. Especially biting is David Brinkley's response to Strom Thurmond's comments. The film's only weakness comes in the form of narration from Charlene Modeste. The words are simply too flowery or artsy for such subject matter. This is a film that urges you to feel the frustrations. It turns out "Law & Order" can be twisted by those in power.

    Releasing in theaters and OnDemand beginning September 16, 2022.
  • An in depth review of the true nature of police escalation during civil unrest. All of which is remains painfully relevant even to this day.

    I was able to view this during the virtual Sundance Festival.

    The blatant and heavily institutionalized discrimination that exists from of birth of police is well displayed throughout this film.

    It's unfortunate that this is still a problem today.

    Only critique is the editing did feel a bit choppy intermixed with the quotes. Maybe could use another round of editing before wide distribution.
  • Originally premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival in the NEXT selection.

    Director Sierra Pettengill makes a documentary about a fictional town named Riotsville which was built by the US military and explores the militarization of the police and creates a counter-narrative to the nation's reaction to the uprisings of the late '60s. The issues of police and riots are still a very common theme in the modern days. This documentary may be considered relevant in todays time because of all the political things happening at this very moment.

    The music choice to create an uneven tension really helps to make you feel uneasy of what you are learning, the narration from Charlene Modeste does really help to add an feeling of uneasiness while you are witnessing archival footage of riots and insane things happening. There are some really good conversations from political members, citizens, news people, and others that are presented in this documentary to capture a realistic point of view.

    However, the editing becomes really sloppy and some of the technical moments are noticeably bad. As if there are some errors during post-production when making this movie. Overall, a good documentary.

    Rating: B.
  • naq-123 September 2022
    It was disappointing to watch what should have been a worthwhile project. In terms of the footage presented, we see way more outtakes than the actual controversial enactments of the staged "riots" for the benefit of an audience of Generals and Politicians.

    The one thing that seemed to be a revelation was that the idea of Snipers was actually one which was fabricated by the police in order to show that they should bring in heavy artillery, but the reality is that the snipers were just police plants shooting wildly, even at each other to invoke a response -- there was only one case of an unknown sniper who attempted to shoot at the police while drunk, and so the sniper missed every target.

    But the problem with the documentary is the frequent use of non-essential footage, "padding" the scenes with news commentators prattle, and often playing TV logos and even a commercial or promotional tape in order to add commentary on the alignment of the news media, only to miss the target much like the sniper -- the commercials, as much as they are nostalgic and naive, are wasted material in the otherwise over-long project. Cutting out 30 minutes of this wasted footage would have better served the filmmaker's goal.

    Of course, then it would not be considered a contender for a Feature by the Academy, which one senses is the filmmaker's attitude in this presentation -- as evidenced by the use of overly dramatic voice-over consisting of poetic nonsense.

    Since the filmmaker sees the found footage as so extraordinary, we are intrigued by the idea that we might then be able to see the actual riot footage of the real events, such as the Democratic National Convention in 1968, but none of this happens, and instead we are given a somewhat watered down version of the event at the Republican National Convention the same year when Richard Nixon was nominated -- and the protest by a small group of black ghetto denizens was a complete and utter failure.
  • I was excited to see this documentary when I first heard about it and sought it out, but in the end it left me bored and annoyed.

    The director has access to some remarkable file footage, but doesn't seem to know what to do with it. Interspersed with that amazing footage are a series of overly arty flashing collages of ambient video (a close up of TV pixels for several minutes) coupled with grinding tuneless soundscapes and a laughable voice over that sounds like a cross between a bad poetry slam and a hilarious satire of an overly earnest podcast, right down to the slow, labored delivery and over-pronunciation (Think the "You Must Remember This" podcast)

    The director also made a weird choice to not have voice narration outside of the arty collages; instead she has chosen like a hundred title cards in black rectangles in the middle of the screen. It becomes annoying pretty quickly since the file footage is so jaw droppingly interesting.

    So many bad choices directorially. With the footage they had, this should have been a gimme, instead it's like a high school film students senior project with a fairly dumbed-down historical take.

    Come for file footage; be prepared to fast forward through the long, boring "podcast" segments.