VIFF: Riotsville, U.S.A.

Consisting entirely of government and TV news footage from the 1960s (with essayistic commentary and brief on-screen contextual notes), Sierra Pettengill’s transfixing nonfiction film harks back nostalgically to a period of widespread civil unrest in the United States, when Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, and dozens more inner cities went up in flames. In July 1967, President Johnson established the Kerner Commission to investigate. At much the same time, a mock town was built in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to train military and police in containing civil disorders. They called it “Riotsville.”

Pettengill’s thesis is that the wave of protests (predominantly from the Black community) threw a spotlight on social inequity that could not be ignored. Indeed, the Kerner Report was no whitewash. In some areas, it became the fastest selling paperback since Valley of the Dolls. But for the most part its recommendations—including a universal income—were ignored or not properly funded. Meanwhile, budgets for police containment and riot control began to escalate with repercussions we still see today.


Saturday, October 1
Doors 3:30 pm | Movie 4:00 pm
Advance tickets through here


Tickets for all Vancouver International Film Festival screenings at the Rio Theatre are managed through VIFF, and can be made in advance via their ticketing service at www.viff.orgTickets may also be purchased at the box office; or any VIFF venues subject to availability.

*Online sales for VIFF screenings end 60 minute prior to any given showtime. The VIFF box office will open 60 minutes before any given showtime.
*Unless otherwise noted, all patrons must be 19+ with valid ID or entry to all Vancouver International Film Festival events.

*Sorry, Rio Theatre Groupons and passes cannot be used for VIFF events.


VIFF memberships are now included in the cost of your tickets so no need to buy a separate membership.

If you have any questions about VIFF programming or ticketing, please call them at 604-683-3456, or email them directly <[email protected]>


An archival documentary about the U.S. military’s response to the political and racial injustices of the late 1960s: take a military base, build a mock inner-city set, cast soldiers to play rioters, burn the place down, and film it all.

About The Rio

Voted the #1 Independent Theatre in Vancouver, the Rio Theatre is a multimedia venue featuring arthouse, mainstream and cult-classic cinemas as well as live entertainment. Built in 1938, the Rio has been fully restored with a state of the art digital projector, surround sound, a huge stage and 420 luxurious seats.

1660 East Broadway, Vancouver, BC

Phone: 604.879.3456

Info Line: 604.878.3456

Email: [email protected]

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