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

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Olivia Flores Alvarez