A weird film from 1971 directed by British director Peter Watkins.
Plot: It's the Nixon era and the American justice system has gone absurdly wrong. Hippies, criminals and possible future suspects are detained, and given the choice to either serve time in a federal prison, or fight for freedom for 3 days in the Punishment Park.
What could anybody choose, as if the prisoners have any other choice?
Punishment Park is a wasteland in the Californian desert, where prisoners are set loose without any food or water.
The main goal is to reach a post (an American Flag) miles away to gain freedom. Of course, on the run the prisoners encounter several obstacles and are hunted down by law enforcers, turning the whole quest into a game of survival of the fittest.
Filmed in cinema verite style with a European film crew, makes this film read as a social critical comment of the dark side of America of the early 70's counter culture. Part mockumentary part fiction. The dialogue was entirely improvised by the actors as well. Production values are low, but doesn't harm the film giving it a sense of realism instead.
Punishment Park was not well received, and in my opinion was due to the films nature: Cultural criticism of the United States of America, and its justice system, told by a European director/ writer.
During the Vietnam war ,with "Tricky Dicky" in the White-house, most so called criminals were simply students concerned with civil rights, trying to deliver an anti war statement. Maybe the social criticism was a bit too much, or even worse "Anti American" for a nation in a time of crisis ?
A pretty bleak film that is very realistically portrayed. Considering how the media and reality television has changed the times turning almost everybody/anybody into a spectator, I wouldn't find this improbable in the next few decades or so.
I think I read somewhere that the film was in fact inspired on an experiment conducted on real prisoners. I wouldn't be surprised if true, but won't go into depth here without proper research first.
God Damn! I'm getting too serious now! I'm getting depressed over here! Get a couple of six packs, kick back and enjoy ... if you can track it down. This is a fun film to watch.