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"Intense, outrageous and still relevant a cult hit waiting to happen." The Boston Phoenix
"Paralyzing. A devastating indictment and a chilling prognosis." The San Francisco Chronicle
1970. The war in Vietnam is escalating. There is massive public protest in the United States and elsewhere. President Nixon declares a state of national emergency and the Federal authorities are given the power to detain persons judged to be "a risk to national security."
In a desert zone in southwest California, a civilian tribunal passes sentence on groups of dissidents and gives them the option of participating in law enforcement training exercises in the Bear Mountain National Punishment Park. In an atmosphere of aggression and intimidation and in soaring temperatures, the prisoners have to fight for their lives as they are hunted down by the forces of law and order.
- Specially-filmed 28 minute introduction by Director Peter Watkins.
- Feature length audio commentary by Dr.Joseph A. Gomez author of the only book on Peter Watkins
- "The Forgotten Faces" (1961) an 18 minute amateur film by Peter Watkins.
- 24 page booklet with a chapter on Punishment Park from Joseph Gomez's 1979 book on Peter Watkins.
- Text essay by media critic Scott McDonald on audience responses to "Punishment Park"
- Peter Watkins filmography
- Original 1971 press kit.
Top Customer Reviews
The film is about the state of national emergency proclaimed by the president of the United States, which gives permission to detain those who may be a threat to national security, who are then detained, often preemptively, judged by the tribunal that disregards constitutional rights of these "criminals," and given a choice between hard time in prison for years or hard time in punishment park for three days. Guess which one is worse? Still, everyone picks punishment park where they are forced to run through the desert in intolerable heat (or cold, at night), without water, toward a destination designated by the American flag. The purpose of the punishment park is to - well, punish - and train the law enforcement officers to deal with dissidents en masse.
The whole thing is so realistically done, including the lack of script for the tribunal scenes, where the actors on both sides of the fence spoke their own invented lines based on their own life experiences, that I had to take another few minutes to remind myself that we don't have punishment parks in America. According to the director's commentary, Danish media was convinced otherwise and protested punishment parks based on this movie, then was forced to retract their protest realizing belatedly the movie was fictional.
It's a visceral picture. There is more than one reason why it had been practically banned (or simply denied distribution) for decades: not only is it pointing fingers at just about every establishment, but it is also difficult d/t the violence and lack of humanity displayed on the screen.Read more ›
Watkins used all of these elements and more as a vehicle for this work. He used the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950 which allowed for emergency powers to be used by a President in a time of war without recourse to Congress. This meant that undesirables could be held in detention with scant regard to the rule of law if they posed `a risk to internal security'. In the film we see young people being shackled and taken to a tribunal - of sorts. What is to all intents and purposes a kangaroo court then passes indeterminate sentences like 10 to 15 years, on all of them for acts against America etc. They are then given the choice to serve the term in a Federal Prison or do 3 days at Punishment Park.
They all go for the Park. Here they have to travel through the desert to an American flag being `pursued' by National Guards and Police - if caught they go to prison if they make the flag they are `free'.
Well the film uses docudrama techniques and the film crew interview both hunter and hunted and depicts how attitudes change and harden over the course of the hunt. We also have the ongoing court case of the next batch and that is equally as powerful. This was all done using amateurs and a lot of improvisation as people felt so aligned to what they were doing that they felt well able to take the arguments on by themselves.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Just okay, jumped back and forth too much I lost the people in the shufflePublished 7 days ago by Lisa McCance
Very Good antiwar movie and a indictment of the us gov,and the law and order that still going on today. Read morePublished 13 days ago by Aimbot
Excellent commentary on the United States and these themes still ring true today. There is no justice and no peace. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Nathaniel Bachelder
Jarring. Provocatively powerful. That's my review-speak, but if you want a movie that makes you think and interrupts daily existence,Published 2 months ago by Lev Elgudin
The realism portrayed is intense. And issues brought up relevant to our current state. An important and uncomfortable film.Published 2 months ago by Joshua Kozycz