"Punishment Park" is a pseudo-documentary purporting to be a film crews's news coverage of the team of soldiers escorting a group of hippies, draft dodgers, and anti-establishment types acro... Read all"Punishment Park" is a pseudo-documentary purporting to be a film crews's news coverage of the team of soldiers escorting a group of hippies, draft dodgers, and anti-establishment types across the desert in a type of capture the flag game. The soldiers vow not to interfere with t... Read all"Punishment Park" is a pseudo-documentary purporting to be a film crews's news coverage of the team of soldiers escorting a group of hippies, draft dodgers, and anti-establishment types across the desert in a type of capture the flag game. The soldiers vow not to interfere with the rebels' progress and merely shepherd them along to their destination. At that point, ha... Read all
- James Daly, Defense Attorney
- (as Frederick Franklyn)
A lost classic of strength and purpose.Find it. See it.
I had to see this movie with French subtitles, as I understand it was unavailable for 30 years. I can see why. As a mock documentary, it thinly disguises a diatribe against American society during the Vietnam era - the country's hypocrisy and its culture of violence. It is a forthright piece of agit-prop mock verite filmmaking that I can imagine would easily provoke strong reactions among the youth and among the left during that divisive era. That, of course, is its strength and its purpose. The narrative itself cuts between two scenarios. Neither is meant to be 'realistic'; each is exaggerated for impact and to push the metaphoric value of the situation. On one hand, you have a group of radicals neatly representing various factions of the left - a feminist, a pacifist, a revolutionary, a black activist, a political activist, a musician for free expression. They are brought one by one before a kind of kangaroo court made up of various bigoted, closed minded fascistic pro-war, `America Love it or Leave it' types. These 'pigs' are there to determine the guilt of these left wing 'subversives' and then give them a choice - fifteen years in a federal prison or - Punishment Park. The second scenario involves a group of radicals who have been sentenced to Punishment Park and are about to find out what that means. This story provides a second metaphor concerning American injustice and its cults of violence, division, and oppression. This group must get across the desert in 90 to 100 degree heat to a final destination, where the American flag has been placed. They have two hours to get a head start before a group of p***ed off and bloodthirsty troopers and National guardsman will attempt to hunt them down. They must then surrender or be shot. The chances - obviously - are slim. By going back and forth between these two scenes - the absurd tirades of right wing bigots against the left to the hopeless cause of radicals running for freedom in Punishment Park - the point is made quite clear. The effect of the relentless documentary style and of the film's punishing politics keeps your interest and still manages to incite and indict. Many of Watkins' images recall images of the 60's - assassinated radicals, dead blacks, assaults by National Guardsmen, gags in court, and strong echos of the McCarthy hearings. The cumulative effect is strong stuff. Where it could have gotten silly and where it could feel dated - it still disturbs. It is a fabulous premise for a political satire. It would work well now with the neo digital Verite style of the Blair Witch Project in practice and the purloined presidency of George W. and his oppressive cronies in charge.
- Jan 13, 2001
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