Riotsville, USA

Sierra Pettengill, USA 2022, 91’
Polish premiere
Relative The Pez Outlaw

Riotsville is a fictional town built by the US military to test riot and protest suppression methods in the late 1960s. This documentary shows how the scenarios practiced at that time influenced the rise in police brutality against African-Americans and how they became the foundation of an oppressive system that continues to this very day.

“Riotsville, USA,” Sierra Pettengill’s transfixing and troubling archival documentary, feels like watching a Ken Burns film through a kaleidoscope. Relying exclusively on remarkable pre-existing footage, Pettengill tells the story of the development of the U.S. military’s riot management program in the late ’60s, formed in response to the civil rights uprisings in cities across the nation. The military held its riot training in these eponymous fake towns, constructed diorama-style to allow clean-cut soldiers to play-act as protesters, donning hippie clothing and long-haired wigs as they smashed the glass windows of make-believe businesses and overturned government-bought sedans.

‘Riotsville, USA’ Review: Sierra Pettengill’s Transfixing Doc Unveils the Ugly Truth of America’s Riot Police (

Warning for people with epilepsy. The film contains quick editing. 

Jakub Demiańczuk


Minneapolis St. Paul IFF 2022 - Best Documentary

Sierra Pettengill

Sierra Pettengill is a New York producer and director with a record of well-received documentaries such as  Cutie and the Boxer. She has worked on Jim Jarmusch's  Gimme Danger, Robert Greene's  Kate Plays Christine, and, as an archivist, on Mike Mills’  20th Century Women. Her documentary,  The Reagan Show, made with Pacho Velez, showed in the American Docs competition of the 8th AFF.  Riotsville, USA premiered at this year's Sundance Festival.

Selected filmography

2013 Town Hall (doc.)

2014 New Year Part 1 (doc. short)

2017 The Reagan Show (doc.)

2017 Graven Image (doc. short)

2021 The Rifleman (doc. short)

2022 Riotsville, USA (doc.)

Cast & Crew

director Sierra Pettengill
screenplay Tobi Haslett
editing Nels Bangerter
music Jace Clayton
producer Sara Archambault, Jamila Wignot
production Arch + Bow Films, Canal & the Gallery, Field of Vision, LinLay Productions, Trailer 9, XRM Media
sales Dogwoof
language English
coloration colour & b&w
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