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This can still happen
August 22, 2007 7:07 PM   Subscribe

It's the Vietnam War. Nixon has declared a state of emergency and allows for secret tribunals against anti-war protesters, draft dodgers, and others guilty of "hindering the war effort." They have two choices: spend 15 to 20 years in a federal penitentiary or spend 3 days in Punishment Park, where they will have 3 days to trek 50 miles in the California desert without food and water while on pursuit by armed National Guard and police units. Watch Peter Watkin's (previously) "documentary" of Punishment Park here (Google Video, with strong language ).
posted by champthom (28 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
This sounds really interesting... I'd never heard anything about Punishment Park before. I look forward to watching this the next time MeFi goes down.
posted by Poolio at 7:16 PM on August 22, 2007


God help us if President Bush Cheney watches this film....
posted by TrialByMedia at 7:30 PM on August 22, 2007


The best part about this is that the almost all of the actors are basically playing themselves. The protesters are real protesters (and in one case, a real terrorist). The tribunal members are real union officials, dentists, and housewives; the various security staff are mostly ex-police. The entire film was improvised.

A little way in, there's a scene where the new inmates of Punishment Park begin attacking their pursuers with rocks, and the National Guardsmen retaliate by opening fire. You can hear Peter Watkins, off-camera, screaming: "Oh god! Stop filming!" He's not acting. He thought they were live rounds.

It's weird that Watkins is being rediscovered now. He is obviously a major influence on the now-famous Paul Greengrass, for one. For my money, Watkins' best work was "Edvard Munch", which he made directly after Punishment Park after questioning his own use of violence in his films.

His official website, which is very interesting, very bitter, and very dry.
posted by stammer at 7:56 PM on August 22, 2007


Surprisingly good production values.

But ya know, they'd totally call it "Freedom Camping" today. Duh.
posted by bardic at 7:57 PM on August 22, 2007


concentration moon
over the camp in the valley ...
posted by pyramid termite at 8:16 PM on August 22, 2007


The United States is a country that has been lead by morally deficient people since the 1940's.

Therefore the majority of people in the United States are also morally deficient.
posted by carfilhiot at 8:22 PM on August 22, 2007


i was curious about this movie for years, because of a still in a book on science fiction movies that I've had since I was a kid. Finally saw it last year. Not a pleasant movie, but damn good. Netflix has it, if you'd prefer better quality.
posted by jessenoonan at 8:23 PM on August 22, 2007


concentration moon
over the camp in the valley ...


I've been listening to that album since High School and it wasn't until about a year ago I finally got that lyric.
posted by sourwookie at 8:36 PM on August 22, 2007


Great post. I really like Watkins and hade thought about doing a post on him. I was lucky to have film teacher back in the 1980's that knew Watkins and wrote a book on him. We saw Punishment Park, Culloden, Edvard Munch. Watkins created some powerful and visceral images, often on a low budget.

Punishment Park has been coming to my mind a lot more often the last couple of years.
posted by marxchivist at 8:55 PM on August 22, 2007


Call me parinoid, but I am sure the current administration is viewing this as a how-to instructional video along with 1984. "Man we should hire these guys. There are really thinking from under the box. You think we could get away with this?" Laughter and lighting of cigars ensues. Medals for everyone.
posted by Mr_Zero at 9:26 PM on August 22, 2007


The United States is a country that has been lead by morally deficient people since the 1940's.

I don't really buy that the leaders prior to 1940 were really any better. It's just far enough into the past that you're stuck mostly with sources that were either directly produced by the people in power or at least heavily edited by them. (And there was just generally more control, ort at least cooperation, between the government and the press.) More recent leaders seem more corrupt because there are more primary sources left, and people who remember them for who they were.

It's always important to remember who gets to write the histories, any time the past seems too rosy.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:03 PM on August 22, 2007


More disturbing than Punishment Park, in my opinion, is The War Game. It'll be interesting to see if I can sleep tonight, after seeing that...
posted by tsmo at 10:32 PM on August 22, 2007


So someone's got to be remaking this film, right?
posted by davejay at 11:04 PM on August 22, 2007


This is fantastic. The narration in this, the War Game and Culloden is so compelling in its flatness and matter-of-factness.

Agreed, this needs to be remade.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:22 PM on August 22, 2007


Reminds me of Series 7: the Contenders.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:43 AM on August 23, 2007


I'm about an hour into it, and I have to say that the union rep on the tribunal is dead-on 100% proto-Hannity. Really, the whole thing is a freeper's wet dream, except for the parts where the detainees are allowed to speak.
posted by trondant at 8:03 AM on August 23, 2007


carfilhiot: "The United States is a country that has been lead by morally deficient people since the 1940's. Therefore the majority of people in the United States are also morally deficient."

The leaders of the free world do not dictate to me my own sense of morality. I would ask you how you might define the word morality, but quite frankly, I don't give a shit.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:18 AM on August 23, 2007


Oh so you guys like Watkins?

Enough to watch a six hour movie about the rise and fall of the 19th century Paris Commune as recreated on a sound stage and told through the lens of TV news segments?

If you're hardcore enough, check out La Commune... Cause it's the pants.

Also check out anything by Michael Winterbottom, like Greengrass he's heavily influenced by Watkins.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 9:47 AM on August 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


Oooh. I'll have to check that out, cheers PIINAM.
posted by Happy Dave at 9:53 AM on August 23, 2007


I'm assuming this is fiction? If so, the plot sounds as if it's a dead ringer for King's The Long Walk — with the pursuit aspect nabbed from King's Running Man.
posted by WCityMike at 9:56 AM on August 23, 2007


Yeah its fiction. As fucked up as my country is, we never drove hippies out to the desert and shot them for fun. Profit, maybe, but certainly not for fun.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 10:03 AM on August 23, 2007


I didn't bother watching the video, so, no, I didn't know the outcome of the video.
posted by WCityMike at 10:12 AM on August 23, 2007


WCityMike, since this film was made in 1971, and the Running Man and The Long Walk were written in 1982 and 1979 respectively, I doubt Stephen King inspired it.

I would think the climate of repression and mass protest in the late sixties and early 70's inspired it.
posted by Happy Dave at 10:19 AM on August 23, 2007


WCityMike, since this film was made in 1971, and the Running Man and The Long Walk were written in 1982 and 1979 respectively, I doubt Stephen King inspired it.

*brfffffffffl* Excuse me, had to remove my size 13 clodhopper from my mouth.

You're perfectly right. Whoops.
posted by WCityMike at 10:32 AM on August 23, 2007


We still need a Running Man movie, rather than an unrelated film with the same title.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:14 PM on August 23, 2007


It's the Vietnam War.

Indeed.
posted by homunculus at 3:14 PM on August 23, 2007


We still need a Running Man movie, rather than an unrelated film with the same title.

You do remember how that novel ends, no?
posted by WCityMike at 5:09 PM on August 23, 2007


while on pursuit by armed National Guard and police units

"on pursuit by"?
posted by quonsar at 5:27 PM on August 23, 2007


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