Punishment Park

Peter Watkins. 1970. United States of America. vo English. 90’

“1970. The war in Vietnam is escalating. Nixon declares a state of national emergency, and - we presuppose in the film - 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 national security’. In a desert zone in southwest California, not far from the tents where a civilian tribunal is passing sentence on Group 638, the members of Group 637 (mostly university students) find themselves in Bear Mountain National Punishment Park… Group 637 has been promised liberty if its members manage to evade law enforcement officers and reach the American flag posted 53 miles away across the mountains within three days. Meanwhile, in the tribunal tent, members of Group 638 - assumed guilty before tried - endeavour in vain to argue their case for resisting the war in Vietnam. While they argue, amidst harassment by the members of the tribunal, the exhausted members of Group 637 have voted to split into three subgroups: those for a forced escape out of the Park, those who have given up, and those who are determined to reach the flag...”

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