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UK: Cult! Film Distribution
Cast: Patrick Boland, Kent Foreman, Carman Argenziano, Luke Johnson, Katherine Quittner, Scott Turner, Stan Armsted, Mary Ellen Kleinhall, Mark Keats, Gladys Golden, Sanford Golden, George Gregory, Norman Sinclair, Sigmund Rich, Paul Rosenstein, Lee Marks, Sandy Cox, Frederick Franklyn, Ross Briegleb, Joe Hudgins, Radger Greene, Tom Kemp, Harry McKasson, Harold Beaulieu, Cynthia Jenkins, Jack London, Rob Lewine, Roland Gonzalez, Viola Gonzalez, Jack Gozdick, Brian Hart, Linda Mandel, Don Pino, Jason Sommers, Conchita Thornton, Gary Johnson, Michele Johnson, Ted Martin, Don McDonald, Harold Schneider, Jim Bohan, Van Daniel, Harlan Green, Paul Alelyanes, Kerry Cannon, Bob Franklin, Bruce McGuire
Director: Peter Watkins
UK: 90 mins
UK Release Date: 15 July 2005 (Limited Re-release - wider)
UK Release Date: 8 July 2005 (Limited Re-release - London, ICA)
Suppressed for 35 years, the only truly must-see film of 2005 is as frightening and relevant now as when originally released in 1970.
In possibly the most contentious of all Peter Watkins' films, political tensions explode into rage in a futuristic sci-fi desert landscape.
The war in Vietnam is escalating. President Nixon declares a state of national emergency, and activates the 1950 Internal Security Act (the McCarran Act), which authorizes Federal authorities, without reference to Congress, to detain persons judged to be "a risk to internal security".
In a desert zone in south-western California, not far from the tents where a civilian tribunal are passing sentence on Group 638, Group 637 (mostly conscientious objectors and radicals) find themselves in the Bear Mountain National Punishment Park. They must quickly discover the rules of the 'game' they have been forced to undergo as part of the alternative they have chosen to confinement in a penitentiary.
Group 637 have been promised liberty if they evade pursuing law enforcement officers and, in scorching temperatures, reach the American flag posted 53 miles away across the mountains, within three days. In the tribunal tent, Group 638 - assumed guilty before tried - endeavour in vain to argue their case for resisting the war in Vietnam. Meanwhile tensions between Group 637 and the pursuing law enforcement officers explode into rage and violence in Punishment Park.
Stunningly shot in a seamless documentary style by regular Nick Broomfield cinematographer Joan Churchill, PUNISHMENT PARK is a unique pseudo-documentary, political sci-fi thriller. On a cinematic level the film has lost none of its ability to shock, engage and disorientate. Utterly compelling on a narrative level, it now seems frighteningly relevant once again in the advent of The Patriot Act, the incarceration of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and the polarisation of political viewpoints in the USA.