Film Review by Kam Williams
On the evening of March 8, 1971, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier squared-off in a heavyweight championship bout billed as The Fight of the Century. At that very same moment, while the rest of the world’s attention was riveted on Madison Square Garden, eight antiwar activists used that event as a distraction to stage a daring break-in of an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania.
The meticulously-planned operation went off without a hitch, and they managed to cram every file on the premises into suitcases. The audacious octet had no idea until later that they had purloined shocking proof of the Bureau’s wholesale violations of U.S. citizens’ Constitutional rights via an illegal counterintelligence program nicknamed COINTELPRO.
Dubbing themselves, the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, the group Xeroxed the evidence and mailed photocopies to numerous news outlets, most of which refused to publish them. But once one magazine finally did print it, a righteous national outrage ensued. And J. Edgar Hoover ended up with egg on his face, given how he had been using taxpayer money to entrap and spy on any liberals whose politics he did not share.
All of the above is recalled in fascinating fashion in 1971, a whistleblower documentary directed by Johanna Hamilton. What’s interesting to hear is how the participants in the theft eluded capture by the authorities for decades. In fact, the only reason their identities are even known now is because they decided to ‘fess up for the sake of this film.
A belated tribute to some fearless patriots with the gumption to expose the FBI’s lawless ways and the wherewithal to evade apprehension by the Bureau to boot!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 80 minutes
Studio: Fork Films
Distributor: The Film Collaborative
To see a trailer for 1971, visit: https://www.1971film.com/trailer
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