Welcome to Riotsville, USA — a point in American history when the nation’s rulers — politicians, bureaucrats, police — were faced with the mounting militancy of the late 1960s, and did everything possible to win the war in the streets. Using training footage of Army-built model towns called “Riotsvilles” where military and police were trained to respond to civil disorder, in addition to nationally broadcast news media, director Sierra Pettengill connects the stagecraft of “law and order” to the real violence of state practice. Recovering an obscured history whose effects have shaped the present in ways both insidious and explosive, RIOTSVILLE, USA is a poetic and furious reflection on the rebellions of the ‘60s — and the machine that worked to destroy them.
“Traces a damning path to today’s militarization of the police and rhetoric that still echoes in the halls of power.” —Alissa Wilkinson, Vox “All elements of this arresting documentary work together to push an urgent thesis: What we are attuned to hearing, to seeing and to thinking about the U.S. and what the country can and cannot afford to do is by design.” —Lovia Gyarkye, Hollywood Reporter “Through her rigorous archival investigation, Pettingill doesn’t leave any room for doubt: this actually happened, she seems to say. It wasn’t imagined.” —Susannah Gruder, IndieWire “As it paints a sense of this history of militaristic policing, it also shows how the voices of the oppressed are misrepresented in news reports that gawk at cop strengths instead of airing the needs demanded by people, particularly those in Black communities.” —Nick Allen, rogerebert.com