Sierra Pettengill‘s documentary Riotsville,USA explains a lot about why things are the way they are when it comes to protests and the militarization of the police.
Written by Tobi Haslett and narrated by Charlene Modeste, Riotsville, USA unpacks a wealth of information when it comes to the titular town. No, it’s not an actual town but Army-built model towns called “Riotsvilles” where military and police were trained to respond to civil disorder in the late 1960s.
The film is set at a point in American history when the nation’s rulers — politicians, bureaucrats, police — were faced with the mounting militancy of the late-1960s, and did everything possible to win the war in the streets. Using training footage of from “Riotsvilles” and nationally broadcast news media, director Pettengill connects the stagecraft of “law and order” to the real violence of state practice. Recovering an obscured history whose effects have shaped the present in ways both insidious and explosive, Riotsville, USA is a poetic and furious reflection on the rebellions of the 1960s–and the machine that worked to destroy them.
Check out the exclusive clip that examines a very problematic “Riot Report” from the government:
Riotsville, USA, which is produced by Sara Archambault and Jamila Wignot, made its premiere at Sundance earlier this year. It is set to open in theaters September 16.
I stand by this film. It’s triggering, but it shows everything wrong with the police when it comes to handling “rioters” and beyond. It’s a slap in a face to the government — but a slap to wake them up. The amazing footage Pettengill stitches together for the documentary puts a stark, glaring light on the government and confirms what the audience already knows. What’s even more eye-opening is that the footage and interviews from the ’60s could easily be footage from 2022.