Amid the turbulent civil unrest of 1968, the US government built a model town, where the military and police could stage civil disorder and practise their response to mass protest.
Everything in ‘Riotsville’ was filmed: a military movie-maker’s dream mise-en-scène, featuring soldiers playing both the agitators and the victorious responders.
Sierra Pettengill takes unearthed footage of Riotsville as a starting point for a poetic and furious reflection on the reaction of a nation to civil rebellion. Using only archive footage filmed by the military and from broadcast television, she builds a picture of an armed crackdown on dissent, an explosive increase in federal funding for police, and the machinations of American institutional control.
Though its rooted wholly in 1960s America, Pettengill’s riveting film could not be more relevant to our society today, holding up a mirror to another time when swathes of society felt disenfranchised and let down by the State, and urging us to see how the machine of institutional power turned against its own.