Riotsville, USA, dir. Sierra Pettengill, USA 2022, 91 min., English
The latest film from Sierra Pettengill (The Reagan Show
) weaves together a tapestry of rare imagery – television programmes, archival footage, occasional on-screen text – to explore the treacherous militarisation of the US police from the late 1960s until today. Pettengill’s focus are the little-known model towns – ‘Riotsvilles’ – built by the army across the nation and expressly designed to be used by police and military training to respond to civil disorder on the streets of America.
Through a series of all-archival chapters chronicling these forgotten and increasingly absurd events, and exclusively using footage either shot by the US military or filmed for broadcast on national television, Pettengill looks with humour and rigour at the mechanisms by which a nation declares war against its own citizens. At the same time, Riotsville, USA urges us to reflect on how the machines of institutional power control the relationships between authority and the individual, between the state and its citizens.
This UK premiere is followed by a Q&A with director Sierra Pettengill, hosted by writer and broadcaster Simran Hans.
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