Riotsville, USA


Riotsville, USA

Sierra Pettengill


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Riotsville, USA
Sierra Pettengill

From the late 1960s, the US authorities’ response to social protest movements has increasingly tilted towards repression. This essay film shows the development through disconcerting archive material.

Festival IDFA

Run time 91 minutes
Genre film
Language English

Dutch premiere

Riotsville, USA

US authorities’ first reflex in response to social protest movements is repression. This film, created entirely from archive footage, shows the emergence of this approach, coupled with an increasing militarization of the police in the late 1960s. At the time, marginalized groups, chiefly African Americans, were standing up to fight exclusion and poverty. In 1967 there were protests in more than a hundred cities, sometimes leading to riots. A committee appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson advocated social programs to narrow the gap between rich and poor. But that recommendation ended up buried deep in a drawer, and the approach switched firmly to repression.
Using footage shot by the military, Riotsville, USA shows how police and military personnel were trained to crush protests in streets recreated from cardboard. News broadcasters go along fully with the official line that protesters are rioters. We can conclude that the criminalization of the recent Black Lives Matter protests is part of a long tradition.


Director Sierra Pettengill
Production Sara Archambault for Arch + Bow Films, Jamila Wignot for Apograph Productions
Editing Nels Bangerter
Music Jace Clayton


IDFA stands for the power of creative documentary. Documentaries that can connect, inspire and excite. Documentaries that expand the view of ourselves, the environment and the world around us. During this edition of the festival, ITA hosts daily screenings of documentaries and special performances.

See the entire IDFA programme