Attica prison rebellion was 50 years ago. This film makes it feel like yesterday

Jason Dick, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Entertainment News

Rockefeller: “Oh yes. The whole thing was led by the Blacks.”

Nixon: “Are all the prisoners that were killed were Blacks?”

Rockefeller: “I would say … offhand, yes. We did it only when they were in the process of murdering the guards. Or when they were attacking our people. … It really was a beautiful operation.”

If that conversation makes you feel queasy, you’re not alone.

“It really kind of crystallized for me what the story that we’re telling is all about. I always say I can’t separate making the film from the time in which we made it, because I was home in my pandemic bubble, as we all were, and I happen to live someplace in Brooklyn where protesters commonly go down my street. And so I would literally see George Floyd protests happen outside my window while I was inside, working on this film,” Curry said.

It’s not the only time some ugly racial incidents surface in the movie.


“You’re disturbed because things have not really progressed and we’re dealing with the same issues. But again, it makes the film much more relevant. If all the problems had been taken care of, then it would just be in this historical bubble and it wouldn’t be so meaningful as it is,” said Nelson, whose career has been defined by chronicling the Black experience in America in such films as “Freedom Riders” and “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool.”

Nelson and Curry show an unvarnished portrayal of these broad political and cultural issues, but they don’t want those to overshadow their principal theme of portraying the people involved in Attica, in the yard, in the town, in the media, as fully realized human beings.

Curry allows that’s not easy. But even if someone is a former criminal, incarcerated for doing wrong, that doesn’t mean that person ceases to be a whole person.

“I hope that the film is an invitation for people to grapple with that. And sit with those questions,” she said.

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