In early September 1971, over 1,000 prisoners, mainly Black and Latinx, rebelled against racism, brutal treatment and horrific conditions at Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York. Their uprising lasted for five days, until the repressive forces of the state, initiated by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, unleashed a reign of terror against the prisoners. By the time the onslaught was over, 43 people were dead.
Renowned director Stanley Nelson and co-director Traci Curry produced a documentary feature simply entitled “Attica,” about this historic uprising and the state’s repression. It was released one month after the rebellion’s 50th anniversary. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated this film for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. The 94th ceremony will be held March 27 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California.
Of the documentary, Che Nieves, a survivor of the Attica rebellion, told Workers World: “I am so glad that the Attica film was officially acknowledged and nominated for an Oscar. Much work went into making this film what it became. The film is based on what they did to us prior to, during and after the massacre on Sept 13, 1971. The truth speaks for itself.
“On behalf of all my Attica brothers then and now, I want to say that we won a battle among many to come,” stressed Nieves. “The struggle continues. Attica is all of us. Let’s not ever forget that.”
WW Managing Editor Monica Moorehead’s review said, in part: “The Attica documentary, co-directed by Stanley Nelson and Traci Curry, was released by Showtime in early November. The movie brilliantly tells the story of the most profound U.S. prison rebellion of the 20th century, with historic footage and recent interviews with surviving former Attica prisoners, members of the observer community and family members of the guards.”
Moorehead stressed: “Some of the most inspiring segments of the documentary showed historic footage of prisoners organizing themselves, cell block by cell block, during the four days before the state’s assault.” (tinyurl.com/2x6xefzn)
In a synopsis of the film’s reviews, the website Rotten Tomatoes gave it a score of 98% based on critics’ comments. A synopsis of them says: “Attica revisits the titular riot with intelligence, compassion and anger, presenting a version of events that honors history as much as it exemplifies the art of documentary filmmaking.” (tinyurl.com/22vtuvpc)
In his comment at IndieWire, Robert Daniels wrote, “Stanley and Curry’s ‘Attica’ is a harrowing piece of filmmaking and a fitting, powerful remembrance of those who fought for their humanity.” (tinyurl.com/3x7sz7aa)
Roxana Hadadi’s review in the Los Angeles Times notes a poignant distinction made in the film, in that it refers to Attica as an uprising and not a riot. She says, “‘Attica’ is a jarring, engrossing and enraging reminder of how those in power will lie, humiliate, kill and cover up to retain it; and the documentary is one of the year’s best.” (tinyurl.com/mrx72xk8)