Punishment Park

The plot to the 1971 film Punishment Park is simple if chilling: It’s the middle of the Vietnam War and President Richard Nixon has declared a state of emergency. Thousands of antiwar, feminist and civil rights protestors are arrested. The convicted have the option to serve out their full sentence or spend three days in Punishment Park, where law enforcement officers on field training missions chase the prisoners through a patch of California desert. If the prisoners can evade capture and reach the American flag that marks the end of the finish line, they’re set free.

Film curator Francisco Lo says critics at the time called the film “a leftist paranoid nightmare.” Audiences stayed away in droves. “It’s an underrated movie,” says Lo. “It wasn’t banned, it was certainly marginalized.” Shot in a mockumentary style, Park shows the characters talking politics to the camera as well as acting. “It’s not just propaganda,” says Lo. “It’s sophisticated, while also showing lots of raw emotion.” Lo says that while the film is now 40 years old, it continues to be relevant in a post-9/11 world. 8:30 p.m. Domy Books, 1709 Westheimer. For information, call 713-523-3669 or visit www.domystore.com. Free.
Thu., March 3, 8:30 p.m., 2011

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