After the assassinations of Martin
Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the Kent State shootings, and amid the
escalation of the Vietnam War, a group of anti-war activists took it upon
themselves to do something about what they suspected was illegal activity perpetrated
by the FBI. Their solution was to break in to an FBI field office in Media,
Pa., and distribute the documents they found to members of the press and
The fallout was enormous, but it was
soon dwarfed by Watergate. There was plenty of contemporary news coverage, but
the 1971 break-in seems to be lost to history.
Director Johanna Hamilton sets out to
rectify that with 1971, and ably weaves a compelling narrative that
details the national outlook at the end of the sixties, and many Americans’
increasing disgust with the government. None of the break-in participants were
caught, and most of them appear on camera to discuss their role (aided by
It’s astounding stuff, and the
players are just as passionate about it today, whether they’re proud of their
roles or express regret. (One says he feels guilty for perpetuating what he
sees as lingering cynicism about the government in the wake of what he and
colleagues discovered.) Dense but brisk, 1971 is a must-see documentary
about this tumultuous period in American history.
by Johanna Hamilton
Santa Fe Reporter
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