Directed By Stanley Nelson and Traci Curry
Where I Watched It: Amazon (Though it expires in a few days, it is also available on Showtime as of this review)
English Audio Description Available?: Sadly, No.
The Plot: Explores the infamous prison takeover by the inmates at Attica in New York, using interviews from several different viewpoints, including a few survivors, to remind and educate its audience about what should not be soon forgotten, and shows the parallels of problems with the prison complex system back then, and how very little has changed today.
Why It Works: I have to fully admit that without audio description, I realize the accompanying imagery was lost on me. I have no idea how hard of a watch this might be for a visually angled audience, given the films use of archive footage. If even half the things described at a certain point in the film are shown on screen, it would make for a very difficult film.
That’s the power of the documentary, to tell a story so intensely captivating it takes your breath away. I still remember sitting in a movie theatre when I still had vision, watching The Cove, and that absolutely unnerving and brutal sequence the film builds to made that a doc that I still haven’t been able to shake.
I feel like Attica could be that, at least for the 2021 crowd. There have been some excellent documentaries this year, tackling important subjects, or even just trying to encapsulate a moment in time for the world to see. Attica feels like the most important documentary I saw from last year, the one that got under my skin, and the one I’ll remember long after this. It’s high praise considering I had no audio description, but the way the interviews are assembled, and hearing each one of these various individuals revisit those few days, it is just impossible to not be connected and grounded.
It’s high praise, because I honestly already had two documentaries from this past year that I thought were near perfect (Summer Of Soul and LFG), so adding one more into the mix, it just means documentaries are still alive and well.
I would still encourage a blind audience to watch this film even without audio description, and let the interviews guide you. This story is edited to perfection. The interviews offer so much color of the event itself. And the documentary feels both current and timely while still reminding us of an event that too many of us know next to nothing about, and isn’t widely taught in schools as part of our history. But, perhaps, it should be.
What Doesn’t Work: As far as I can tell, everything works. The biggest flaw in this film is the lack of offered audio description, which could just be a failure of the services on which the film is offered. More often than not, it is actually the fault of the service. Especially with regards to Showtime, which never airs its product with audio description on its premium channels.
The Blind Perspective: As I’ve discussed, this is a rare exception where the film is so good, and the content is so important, that I would recommend watching the film anyway, even if it’s just to listen to the interviews (and the few archive footage moments that have audio). You will get a lot out of this, especially if you know next to nothing about the events at Attica.
Final perspective: It’s a fantastic documentary in a very tough field. Can a documentary centered around a prison riot win the Academy Award this year? Or will they go with the three time nominated Flee, or fan favorite Summer Of Soul or How The Revolution Could not Be Televised? I tend to pick a film that will stick with me, that I’ll have no problem recalling how it impacted me ten or twenty years from now. I’ll remember Attica.
Final Grade: A