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PUNISHMENT PARK

Director: PETER WATKINS

88 minutes, U.S.A., 1971, Colour, 35mm


This film screened on Sunday 23rd August  2015. 

Shot as a pseudo-documentary on one 16mm camera with a crew of eight, Peter Watkin’s still radical, still polemic Punishment Park imagines a 1970 where Nixon has responded to large-scale protests by enforcing ‘the McCarran Act’ which enables authorities to detain anyone considered to be ‘a risk to internal security’. Dissenters are gathered to stand corrupt trials where they argue in vain for the validity of their perspectives. Ultimately they are presented with this choice: 20 years in prison or four days on an assault course called Punishment Park, a 53-mile trek through the desert without food or water with the National Guard in hot pursuit.

This event is part of Anger is an Energy: Cinema of Protest, our season throughout August that features films – from a range of time periods and national cultures – that examine how some of cinema’s most creative and daring directors have tackled and responded to sociopolitical dissent.

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