The Case for Reenactment in Documentary Cinema


The new film 1971 (out in limited release this Friday) is, at least on the surface, a heist movie, and is styled accordingly. Its protagonists meet in dark rooms and strategize, divvying up jobs and looking over maps and schedules. The break-in man sits off in the corner, practicing picking locks. They case the target, staking out the building in question from cars, painstakingly logging the activities outside. And when the big night comes — fight night, in true Ocean’s 11 form they don their disguises, slip in while no one’s looking, and go to work. It’s all elegantly photographed and masterfully edited, with the attractive cast coming, it seems, within a hair of being caught and sent to the hoosegow. But 1971 is different from your usual heist movie for two reasons: it’s a true story (our protagonists are stealing files from an FBI field office in Media…

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