In the dystopian film PUNISHMENT PARK (1971), Richard Nixon claims broad and entirely legal emergency powers, suspending freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and arresting and jailing dissidents, most of them prominent liberals and peace activists. Select detainees are tried by kangaroo courts made up of solid citizens and given a choice of lengthy prison terms or a few days in one of the punishment parks used to train police and military personnel on improved techniques to hunt and arrest dissidents.
Filmed as a mockumentary by Peter Watkins, PUNISHMENT PARK is simply one of the most extraordinary films I’ve ever seen, simultaneously telling the story of one group being fed into the court (inspired in part by the Chicago Seven trial) and another being fed into one of the punishment parks (divided into three groups, one violent, another forced to violence, and a third pacifist and still believing the System is fair). A great deal of the arguing between the right wingers on the court and the left wing activists being tried was ad libbed, and real.
This movie is crying for a remake given today’s highly polarized political climate in America. It will make you think long after it’s over.