Stanley Nelson’s Attica Devastates and Shakes to the Core 50 Years Later
“Dog Day Afternoon,” based upon a real-life story in the early seventies where the Chase Manhattan Bank in Flatbush was held siege by a gay bank robber determined to steal enough money for his male lover to undergo a sex change operation. I remember vividly the scene where Sonny (Al Pacino) leads a crowd outside the bank yelling out “Attica, Attica” in protest of law enforcement. During that same summer of 1971, tensions between inmates and guards at the Attica Correctional Facility came to a head as now legendary institution became the stage for one of the largest prison riots in American history.
Directed and written by legendary documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson. Attica devastates and shakes its audience to its core with original interviews from former inmates, family members of the hostages, and those who witnessed the rebellion firsthand. Attica brings us back to a moment in time that continues to resonate by capturing the people, politics, emotions and tragedy serving as a wake-up call for prison reform and a reminder of the responsibilities of justice.
Just as with “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” Nelson illustrates those seeking justice can sometimes be their own worst enemies making their downfall as complicated as it is tragic.
Still images coming from the evidence presented over the years as part of lawsuits addressing the September 13, 1971, atrocities committed by law enforcement, are disturbing, yet leaving viewers equally angry.
As a member of the media, it’s equally disturbing how many reporters encouraged the false narrative claiming inmates had killed hostages themselves. Although that claim was later proven false, the damage had been done and many among the public at that time continue to believe those preposterous claims even today.
If cameras had not come in and not reported what happened, we wouldn’t be sitting here 50 years later talking and debating this event. There would probably no record of the government having killed 39 of its own citizens and we definitely wouldn’t have this doc without that footage.
Now, an Oscar nominated documentary and streaming on Showtime , this is by far Stanley Nelson’s best documentary to date proving that old Lois McMaster Bujold quote, “The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is a duty of the living to do so for them” to be right on time.