Jul 20, 2022

In 1971, the FBI had its own prime time TV show, a crime drama where bold agents thwarted evildoers and heroically saved America, neatly, in a one hour time slot. Two years previous, Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated. It was also three years into the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, a violent escalation of the Vietnam War. At home, anti-war and civil rights activists grew more desperate, as the state upped the stakes, shooting and killing activists on campuses. At the same time, activists knew there was also a far more insidious, coordinated effort by the state to crush resistance. They suspected their movements were infiltrated by agent provocateurs, but they had no proof of it.

A small group of college students and a professor set out to blow the whistle by hatching an elaborate plan to break into the offices of the FBI. They got away with it and lived to tell the tale. Most of them are interviewed in 1971. It covers the whole story and it’s a thrilling ride.

After setting the tone for the film by describing the political climate of the time, the pace picks up, quickly moving into their plan. From the reenactment of the casing of the FBI office in Media, Pa., to their break-in into the office, it’s as thrilling as any Hollywood heist movie. They made off with several boxes of FBI files and sent them to the press, exposing the FBI’s infiltration and repression strategy we now know as COINTELPRO.

The state oppression and surveillance we now take for granted as happening all the time is common knowledge only because of the sacrifices these activists made. And the repression they endured was no joke. 1971 is a moving document of some very brave people, people who risked it all. We owe to them and everyone who wants a better world to watch it. (You can watch this movie on Kanopy, the streaming site on most public libraries.) –Craven Rock (1971film.com)