The story of a notorious 1971 activist burglary of an FBI office that led to the Bureau's numerous abuses against dissidents being exposed.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Bonnie Raines ...
Herself (as Bonnie)
John Raines ...
Himself (as John)
Bob Williamson ...
Himself (as Bob)
Keith Forsyth ...
Himself (as Keith)
Bill Davidon ...
Himself (as Bill)
Betty Medsger ...
Herself, reporter, The Washington Post
Terry Neist ...
Himself, former FBI agent
Athan Theoharis ...
Himself, professor of history, Marquette University
J. Edgar Hoover ...
Himself, director of the FBI (archive footage)
Sanford Ungar ...
Himself, journalist
Benjamin C. Bradlee ...
Himself, executive editor, The Washington Post (archive footage)
Katherine Graham ...
Herself, publisher, The Washington Post (archive footage) (as Katharine Graham)
Himself, senator, South Dakota (archive footage)
Himself, senator, Kansas (archive footage)
Himself (archive footage)


On March 8th, 1971, eight ordinary citizens broke into an FBI office in Media, PA. Calling themselves the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI, they removed every file in the office. Mailed anonymously, the stolen documents started to show up in newsrooms. The heist yielded a trove of damning evidence. The most significant revelation was COINTELPRO, a controversial, secret, illegal surveillance program overseen by lifelong Bureau director J. Edgar Hoover. Despite one of the largest investigations ever conducted, the FBI was unable to catch the burglars. Those responsible have never revealed their identities. Until now. For the first time the burglars have decided to speak about their actions. 1971 is their story, examining the consequences and implications of their actions - then and now. Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

18 April 2014 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


In the recreation of the crime scene which occurs during the Ali - Frazier fight of March 8th 1971, there are cut aways to another person in the building watching the fight. The fight was closed circuit only, and there was no cable TV in 1971, so anybody wanting to see the fight live either had to be in the arena or in theaters and auditoriums broadcasting the fight for a fee. See more »

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User Reviews

Well worth watching, though incomplete
6 December 2015 | by (San Francisco, California) – See all my reviews

1971 is a little uneven as a documentary, but well worth watching for its telling of the Media story as well as for its exploration of the world of white middle-class professionals active against the Vietnam war. The film blends archival footage with reenactment seamlessly, and delivers the blow-by-blow story of the break-in very well, although as an IMDb goof notes the dramatic device of the apartment manager watching television is anachronistic. While film goers will already be aware of the raid's success, 1971 successfully delivers tension around its explanation of the planning, execution, and aftermath, with the audience made to feel participants' concern about discovery, especially via the actions of the ninth member of the group.

I was especially taken with the movie's examination of John and Bonnie's concern for their children, and Bonnie's statement that the couple refused to use their status as parents to absolve themselves of responsibility for crimes being conducted in their name. The post-Reagan era popular culture narrative of Vietnam resistance tends towards depiction of the anti-war movement as comprised of tie-dye wearers listening to The Doors, but a generation now in our 50s remembers our parents hiring dependable babysitters and then heading off down the Schuylkill to I-95 and a demonstration at the Pentagon. Philly had SANE, Women Strike for Peace, WILPF, AFSC, the Unitarian Peace Fellowship, and other organizations filled with responsible middle-class Americans sickened by the war.

The War. We talk today about Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Syria, as CGI backgrounds for drone video games fought by air-conditioned kids in Nevada trailers. Whether the 1991 or 2003 invasion Iraq was never The War. In 1971 when you said The War everyone knew what you were talking about - the coffee table had Life Magazine's spread on My Lai ditches filled with women and children's corpses as a year later it would have Nick Ut's photo of nine-year-old screaming Kim Phúc. If you were an educated responsible parent in 1971 you knelt down and looked your ten-year-old son in the eyes and told him you would do what you could to keep him, and Vietnamese children his age, from being butchered for your government's lies, Dow's profits.

Vietnam is a character largely missing from 1971. We hear Bob and Keith talk about the necessity for action, see footage of Jackson State bullet holes and Mary Ann Vecchio, but the film fails to evoke that feeling of the war having ground on for so long now despite all one's actions to stop it. By 1971 Tonkin had been six years past, we'd lived through years of Johnson's and now Nixon's lies, nightly body-counts of dead Vietnamese, uncertainty whether the neighbor's boy was going to be drafted. While 1971 delivers the story of how Media, I think it fails to fully communicate why.

1971 is a bit choppy in the aftermath of the break-in. McGovern's rejection of and then capitalization on the Media documents was nicely referenced, reminding us of his and other liberal politicians' actions that year in connection with Ellsberg and Russo's cache. Camden seems kind of tacked on and without context. There was no mention of Harrisburg that I recall. In explaining Bob, Keith, and the Raines' sense of exhaustion it might have been useful to communicate something of the burden of the various conspiracy trials and the work that went into their defense. I liked the explanation of Carl Stern's exposure of Cointelpro. Reminiscences by the Raines' kids and Bob's musing on unintended consequences were interesting, but also telegraphed to me that at this point the film had lost focus. The Church Committee treatment seemed to me very incomplete. We were told of Media participants acting in the wake of MLK and RFK's assassinations, but there was no mention of Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, other Panthers, Allende and other CIA targets. It's true the viewer could easily become lost in a sea of references, but Media's impact and legacy is intertwined with other revelations which were on the minds of contemporary political actors, and the film might have spent a few more minutes fleshing this out.

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