Oscar-Nominated Documentary Attica Has Western New York Ties

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Fifty years after the death and destruction of the Attica prison uprising, a documentary revisiting the tragic days of September 1971 has been nominated for an Oscar.

This Showtime documentary from acclaimed director Stanley Nelson, a film simply titled “Attica,” also includes the voices and assistance of many people throughout the region.

“Attica” was one of five finalists announced Tuesday as nominees for the Best Documentary Oscar.

“Certainly Stanley did a brilliant job,” said local filmmaker David Marshall, who filmed an interview for the documentary. “I was just thrilled to be a part of it.”

Stanley Nelson

Marshall and a film partner, Christine Christopher, have their own history with the prison uprising. Their company, Blue Sky Project, released a film in 2013, “Criminal Injustice: Death and Politics at Attica,” which focused on the politics that led state police to violently storm the prison on September 13. 1971.

This takeover of the prison – inmates had taken over the facility four days earlier – ended with 29 men incarcerated and 10 hostages fatally shot.

In all, 43 people died in Attica. Prison officer William Quinn was fatally beaten by prisoners – he was the only prison employee to die at the hands of inmates – and inmates also killed three other prisoners in the clash.

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When Nelson and “Attica” producer and co-director Traci Curry began their research, they asked Marshall and Christopher for help. Christopher, who researched the uprising extensively even after their film was released in 2013, connected the filmmakers with people who had first-hand — often traumatic — experiences with the riot.

Traci Curry

Among these was Minister Raymond Scott, a local resident who was one of the outside “observers” who tried to help broker a peaceful settlement. Marshall filmed the interview with Scott.

In an interview last year with the Democrat and ChronicleTraci Curry said many observers she interviewed had a painful sense that they could have done more, even if the decision to besiege the prison had come following their pleas to allow negotiations to continue.

“You feel like they couldn’t have done anything differently to change the outcome, but they all feel like it’s a personal failure on their part,” Curry said.

Heather Ann Thompson, whose Attica story, “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy” won the Pulitzer Prize, served as a consultant for the documentary.

Reverend Raymond Scott

Other regional residents featured in the film are Deanne Quinn Miller, whose father, William Quinn, was the prison officer killed in the uprising, and the children of Carl Valone, an officer who had been a hostage and was fatally shot. during recovery.

Although five decades have passed, Marshall said the documentary feels especially relevant now that the country is trying to come to terms with social justice and its legacy of racism.

“It’s something that resonates today,” he said.

Marshall said that no matter what happens when the Oscars are handed out, he’s proud to have been part of a film that made it to the nomination phase.

“I think it’s good to be in the running,” he said. “It’s my point of view.”

(Journalist Gary Craig has written extensively on the aftermath of the Attica uprising over the past 20 years and is co-author with Deanne Quinn Miller of “The Prison Guard’s Daughter: My Journey Through the Ashes of Attica”, which is published by Diversion Books.)

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