Magnolia Pictures debuted the official trailer for Riotsville, USA, the new documentary on the reaction of citizens and institutions to the rebellions of the late 1960s.
Directed by Sierra Pettengill, the documentary film opens in theaters, including the Film Forum in New York City, on September 16, 2022.
In the wake of the mid-1960s urban riots, LBJ tasked the Kerner Commission to study their causes, and among their findings: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one Black, one white. Separate and unequal.” The Commission recommended that the US aggressively address income inequality and institutional racism. The government instead used federal funds to militarize local police forces. “Riotsvilles” were ersatz “towns” constructed by the military to train police in riot control tactics.
Sierra Pettengill reveals stupefying archival footage featuring soldiers playing both the rioters and police. With trenchant narration written by Tobi Haslett, the film suggests that the opportunity to redress historic grievances was tragically and summarily abandoned, and that the blueprint for escalating police and community tensions was established more than 50 years ago.
Riotsville, USA had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival where it was nominated for the NEXT Innovator Award. Pettengill’s work focuses on the warped narratives of the American past. Her 2017 feature, the all-archival documentary The Reagan Show, premiered at the Locarno Film Festival.
Watch the official trailer for Riotsville, USA.