There is something powerful about simply retelling a story as a matter-of-fact series of events. This is the form that Attica takes, using witnesses from the event, people in and around the protest and those still affected by it, be it through direct links or removed by a generation. This is because Attica is an event unique and shocking enough that it doesn’t need anything more.
Attica tells the story of a protest at Attica Correctional facility when the inmates took control of the prison and staged a “sit-in,” refusing to comply with authorities until their demands of an equal, non-prejudice penal system were met. It of course made national news and threatened the reputations of the local Government and even reached as high as the national level, including the President at the time. It is a story which has tension, humour, tragedy, twists and ultimately outrage, as justice still hasn’t been found for the way the events transpired.
Many people may already know what happened at Attica but if you don’t, it would be well worth going in with little to no knowledge. Not just for the intrigue and entertainment value but because it will help form your own opinion of the events. This is made easier by the sheer amount of footage. With Attica being a national news story, cameras were there from almost the outset, including at times inside the prison, seeing the protest first-hand. This means that everything from the living conditions, the meetings with mediators and the shocking way that the protest was eventually handled, are all caught in first-hand, genuine footage.
Attica happened in 1971, which means many of the people who took part in the protest, either as a prisoner, guard, journalist or other type of participant, can give their testimonies too. These are the most valuable and most interesting aspect of the documentary, as you get the emotion, the reliable account and in some cases the bewilderment or outrage at how events could have been allowed to happen.
This is then compounded further by the stories of those that are the children or spouses of the people involved in the protest. They tell stories about the protests continue to haunt lives, how justice was never really done and the poor attempts at monetary compensation. Race is also at the centre of the protests in many ways, and as with any historic story to do with racism, the story is still very relevant today.
Overall, Attica is a story so compelling, shocking and relevant that the simple, straight-forward retelling of the events is the perfect way of presenting it. It especially helps when it includes so much first-hand footage and the in-depth testimonies by those that were there. You will be outraged by the way events are handled and could continue to be outraged when you realise how relevant the events still are today.
Rating – 5!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)
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