I've just finished watching this movie three times: once to preview it and twice with students of a history of crime and punishment class. The film is an amazing and engaging piece of work.
The narrative of the Attica prison riot and its aftermath is pieced together from interviews with guards, prisoners, state police officials, and observers and both new footage and news footage of the prison rebellion. The film nicely provides both a political background and a brief view of life in a prison for both guards and prisoners before walking through the events of the riot from the hunger strike over a San Quentin killing through the takeover of yard D and to the moving in of the state police, the killings and beatings, and the investigations that followed. The film is framed by the conclusion of the Attica Brothers legal action and the beginning of the Forgotten Victims of Attica suit.
By presenting voices from several perspectives (most particularly the guard Mike Smith and the prisoner Frank "Big Black" Smith) the film provides a rich story. My students and I were deeply moved by the images and events, regardless of our political stripe.
Less heralded than many recent big documentaries this film deserves a wider audience interested in prisons, policing, power and race.
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