Screening Time

8:30 pm

Screening will be followed by a conversation with filmmaker Sierra Pettengill and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wesley Lowery.

Welcome to RIOTSVILLE, USA, a turning point in American history where the protest movements of the late 1960s came into conflict with increasingly militarized police departments. Focusing on unearthed military training footage of Army-built model towns called “Riotsvilles,” where military and police were trained to respond to civil disorder in the aftermath of the Kerner Commission created by President Lyndon B. Johnson, director Sierra Pettengill’s kaleidoscopic all-archival documentary reconstructs the formation of a national consciousness obsessed with maintaining law and order by any means necessary. Drawing insight from a time similar to our own, RIOTSVILLE, USA pulls focus on American institutional control and offers a compelling case that if the history of race in America rhymes, it is by design. 

Produced by Sara Archambault and Jamila Wignot. Executive Produced by Charlotte Cook, Michael Y. Chow, Sue Turley, Grace Lay, and Sumalee Montano.

Courtesy of Magnolia Films.

  • Directors

    Sierra Pettengill

  • Running Time

    91 minutes

  • Country of Origin


/Filmmakers + Moderators

Director_s photo - RIOTSVILLE, USA

Sierra Pettengill


Sierra Pettengill’s work focuses on the warped narratives of the American past. Most recently, she directed the archival short The Rifleman, which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Her 2017 feature-length film, the all-archival documentary The Reagan Show, premiered at the Locarno Film Festival before airing on CNN. She directed the ‘Big Dan’s Tavern’ episode of the Netflix series Trial By Media about the first televised rape trial in the U.S. Her 2018 all-archival short film, Graven Image, aired on POV and is held at the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. In 2013 she produced the Academy Award-nominated film Cutie & the Boxer, which also won an Emmy Award for Best Documentary, and co-directed (with Jamila Wignot) Town Hall about the emergent Tea Party movement, for PBS. She has also worked as an archival researcher for many artists including Jim Jarmusch and Adam Pendleton. She was a Sundance Institute Art of Nonfiction Fellow, a fellow at the Yaddo and MacDowell colonies, and is a board member of Screen Slate.


Wesley Lowery

Wesley Lowery is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author. Lowery was previously a correspondent for CBS News, and a national correspondent at the Washington Post, specializing in issues of race and law enforcement. He led the team awarded the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2016 for the creation and analysis of a real-time database to track fatal police shootings in the United States. His most recent project, Murder With Impunity, an unprecedented look at unsolved homicides in major American cities, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2019. His first book, They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement, was a New York Times bestseller and was awarded the Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose by the LA Times Book Prizes.