Friday, December 16, 2005

Must-See Film: Peter Watkins' 1971 cult classic PUNISHMENT PARK

"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it" -- George Santayana

Director Peter Watkins saw the United States PATRIOT Act coming back in 1971: "With the Vietnam war spiralling out of control and increasingly unpopular with the American public, President Nixon declares a state of national emergency and Federal authorities are given the power to detain persons judged to be a 'risk to national security'."

Updated 12/17/2005:

Punishment Park is a searing, provocative film that is set up to appear as a documentary, though it is actually fictional. It's the story of an extra-legal tribunal meting out sentences to persons deemed a danger to "national security" for reasons ranging from draft dodging, singing songs with "dirty lyrics", inciting revolution, and for simply being unemployed. As one reviewer on the IMDB known only as jwer79 insightfully noted, "See this film and you'll have the rare opportunity to choose your own morality." As the tribunal comprised of society's "straight" or "square" people confront society's misfits, strong cases are presented on both sides defending all of their actions.

I see a few hundred films each year -- at least two a day -- and I can count on one hand the number of times I've been confronted by a movie that has been as thought-provoking, engrossing, harrowing, and haunting as Punishment Park. No matter your political stripe, this is a film not to be missed.

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