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Riotsville, U.S.A. 12 rating

The mid-1960s in America saw a dramatic surge in uprisings and unrest. The government’s response was paranoid and cynical. Welcome to Riotsville.

Documentary 2022 91 mins

Director: Sierra Pettengill



Sierra Pettengill’s troubling documentary uses archival footage to explore the “riotsvilles” of the 1960s: fake towns that were built by the Army in an effort to train an increasingly militarized police force.

Staging elaborate re-enactments of protests in front of applauding spectators and rolling cameras feels farcical, deeply unsettling and archaic – but it’s worth noting that plans for two new “riotsvilles” in Chicago and Atlanta have recently been drawn up. Pettengill’s film is an urgent and damning insight into a pivotal decade that witnessed the Vietnam War and the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King.