‘Riotsville, USA’ Sundance Doc Lands at Magnolia – The Hollywood Reporter

Magnolia Pictures has acquired the North American rights to the Sundance documentary Riotsville, USA, which uses a model town constructed by the U.S. military as a lens by which to examine the militarization of law enforcement.

The doc, which world premiered at Sundance in the NEXT category and is currently playing at Film at Lincoln Center and MoMA’s New Directors/New Films Festival, focuses on fake towns used for military and police training that were constructed in response to the 1960s’ protest movements. Using archival material shot by the U.S. government and the press, the documentary traces how the decade’s protests led to former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Kerner Commission, which offered multiple potential responses to the civil unrest — one of which was to develop methods of “control” over future protests — and was later followed by the construction of Army-built “Riotsvilles” intended to train law enforcement officers on how to respond to civil unrest.

The Reagan Show helmer Sierra Pettengill directs, while Sara Archambault and Jamila Wignot produce and Charlotte Cook, Michael Y. Chow, Sue Turley, Grace Lay, and Sumalee Montano executive produce. Riotsville USA is backed by Field of Vision alongside XRM Media and LinLay Production. The Hollywood Reporter‘s critic Lovia Gyarkye said the film is a “damning portrait of the state” that “is also a rebuttal to those who insist on the impracticality of making the U.S. more equitable” in her review.

Magnolia, which also acquired North American rights to the Sundance doc My Old School this year, is set to theatrically release Riotsville, USA later in 2022. A price for the deal was not disclosed.

RIOTSVILLE, USA is both intellectually provocative and a true aesthetic achievement,” said Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles in a statement. “Sierra Pettengill’s film has the touch of a master.”

Added Pettengill, “I’m thrilled to be working with Magnolia; I’ve long admired their dedication to champion powerful independent cinema, and they are a perfect partner for RIOTSVILLE, USA.”

Magnolia evp Dori Begley and svp of acquisitions John Von Thaden negotiated the deal with Cinetic’s Jason Ishikawa, who represented the filmmakers.

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