Punishment Park

  • 1971
  • 1 HR 28 MIN
  • R
  • Drama

A group of draft resisters is given a choice: a long prison sentence or three days in a "Punishment Park." A British film crew (led by the film's director, Watkins) documents life in one such park. The rules state that members are given three days to reach an American flag 57 miles away. National Guardsmen hunt down the "players," but if they can reach...read more

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A group of draft resisters is given a choice: a long prison sentence or three days in a "Punishment Park." A British film crew (led by the film's director, Watkins) documents life in one such park. The rules state that members are given three days to reach an American flag 57 miles away.

National Guardsmen hunt down the "players," but if they can reach the destination they are to be released. No food is provided, but water will be available at the half-way mark. The film is shown as a sort of live television program with interviews on both sides, jerky camera movements, and

general TV show esthetics. The background of the players is never revealed as we simply follow them through the "game." At times this is a powerful film, serving as a sort of allegory for the American involvement in Vietnam. But often it is muddled and unsure of what direction to take. Still, it's

an interesting enough experiment that's worth a look. Made during the US involvement in Vietnam, the picture postulates the continuing escalation of that war and escalation of opposition to it. The detention camps actually established in the US under the authority of the McCarron Act of 1950 were

projected to be filled with dissenters; the adjacent "punishment parks" were designed for a pragmatic purpose: to alleviate the overcrowding of the prison camps. The chilling scenario lends itself well to Watkins' choice of a documentary style. Like Watkins' other quasi-documentaries, THE WAR GAME

(1967) and PRIVILEGE (1967), this film was commissioned by the British Broadcasting Corporation; like the others, it was rejected by its sponsor due to its controversial content.

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