Film Type: Drama


Punishment Park


1970.  The war in Vietnam is escalating.  There is massive public protest in the United States and elsewhere.  President Nixon declares a state of national emergency and the federal authorities are given the power to detain persons judged to be “a risk to internal security.”

In a desert zone in southwest California, a civilian tribunal passes sentence on groups of dissidents and gives them the option of participating in law enforcement training exercises in the Bear Mountain National Punishment Park.  In an atmosphere of aggression and intimidation and in soaring temperatures, the prisoners have to fight for their lives as they are hunted down by the forces of law and order. A documentary? Not really, though it’s shot in documentary style, but Peter Watkins’ (Edward Munch) amazing Punishment Park, made  at the time but virtually unseen until now, looks both terrifyingly realistic and, perhaps, uncannily prophetic.