The powerful trailer to Showtime’s documentary on the bloodiest prison uprising in American history begins with these simple words: “Attica was fear.”
Fifty years after inmates took control of the correctional institution in upstate New York before authorities cracked down in an explosion of violence, Attica still evokes fear, consternation and outrage.
In Attica, director Stanley Nelson and co-director Traci A. Curry examine the conflict that began with prisoners demanding modest improvements in living conditions inside the Attica Correctional Facility. In some respects, what they were really asking for was recognition of their humanity.
“Guys were complaining about the basic things,” one survivor of the uprising recalls, “like toothpaste. A roll of toilet paper that would last you a month.”
“The inmates were considered like animals,” another of the filmmakers’ interview subjects notes. In voiceover in the trailer, another interviewee observes mordantly, “There was 70-percent Black and brown prisoners. All white guards. What could go wrong?”
Attica debuts on Showtime on Saturday, November 6 after premiering earlier this month at the Toronto International Film Festival (watch Deadline’s interview with the filmmakers here). It’s expected to be a strong contender for Oscar recognition.