By Jason Bailey. In March of 1971, a group of antiwar protestors called “The Citizen’s Commission to Investigate the FBI” broke into the FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania, and stole every file in the joint. Among them were detailed descriptions of the agency’s surveillance and penetration into various “subversive” organizations — y’know, like antiwar groups, civil rights leaders, and women’s liberation organizations. The most incendiary items were sent to media outlets, resulting in the first congressional investigation of the FBI and a healthy shot of pre-Watergate government distrust among constituents. It’s a killer story, all but forgotten today, but this isn’t just a dry document. Director Johanna Hamilton supplements the customary archival footage and talking heads (many of them the perpetrators of the burglary, who were never caught) with slick and successful reenactments that configure the picture as both a political thriller and a heist movie (on fight night, even!). It works both as a “tick-tock” and as history; 1971 is as riveting as it is thoughtful and introspective.
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