Introduction by Leo Goldsmith on August 9

Shot in a documentary style, with non-actors cast partly according to their political sympathies, Punishment Park imagines a near-future where due process in America has been suspended as a response to increasing civil unrest, and the fates of political dissidents are instead determined by tribunal. Otherwise facing lengthy prison terms, the newly convicted opt for three days in Bear Mountain National Punishment Park, in which they must traverse a pitiless desert terrain to win their freedom, while outmaneuvering cops and National Guard members, for whom their capture is a gruesome training exercise. Watkins’s dystopian fantasy of another era offers a vision of state-sponsored brutality that continues to correspond, unsettlingly, to our own. Preceded by Joyce Wieland’s small-scale yet tremendously imaginative Rat Life and Diet in North America, in which rodent guerillas liberate themselves from their feline oppressors and make a northward break for Canada. “It is a parable, a satire, an adventure movie, or you can call it pop art or any art you want,” wrote Jonas Mekas upon its original release, “I find it one of the most original films made recently.”

Punishment Park
Peter Watkins, USA, 1971, 91m

Rat Life and Diet in North America
Joyce Wieland, Canada, 1968, 16mm, 16m