Saturday, December 6, 2008

PUNISHMENT PARK (Peter Watkins, 1971, UK) A deeply disturbing alternate reality documentary about the consequences of democracy when taken from the hands of the people; the powerful smile as our Constitution becomes a weapon for Fascism and the creation of the Fourth Reich. Peter Watkins daring and introspective camerawork binds us closely with the dissidents and soldiers and creates a maddening world that is not far removed from 2008. His crosscutting between the “Game” and the “Emergency Tribunal” hearings is disorienting and keeps the viewer off-balance and emotionally charged. The improvised debates and brutal violence sharpen the conflict and blur the lines between fiction and reality. As one protester states, “I’ll tell what’s immoral, man! War is immoral, poverty is immoral, racism is immoral, police brutality is immoral, oppression is immoral, genocide is immoral, Imperialism is immoral! This country represents all these things!” He was right in 1971 and he’s right in 2008. The problem in Watkins polemic is that he may show us the injustice but he doesn’t show us the answer, the way out. But it is an important first step to seek understanding and acknowledgement of the problem and not to censure it when there’s conflict with the status quo. The next steps are up to us, the people, to change things and gradually fix those problems but I fear we have made too many mistakes and bad decisions. When I hear Bush, Obama, Hilary, et al, all I hear is oink oink. (A)

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