Drama of the real

Two docs — one in Denver, one in Boulder — to watch this weekend

Hockeyland (2022) | Courtesy: Greenwich Entertainment

Eveleth, Minnesota, is home to fewer than 5,000 residents and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. Up here, hockey is a way of life — specifically, high school hockey with the Eveleth Golden Bears. 

The Golden Bears used to be a juggernaut, but that was a decade ago. These days, the neighboring Hermantown Hawks are the team to beat, with star defenseman Blake Biondi destined for the NHL. Destined doesn’t even feel like the right word: The local news did a story on Biondi when he was 10. When Biondi says hockey has been his whole life, he really means it.

Directed by Tommy Haines, Hockeyland follows the Hawks and the Golden Bears on and off the ice. The Biondi-led Hawks are favorites to win it all, but the film begins to enter Hoop Dreams territory as the Golden Bears emerge as a stout contender.

But Haines doesn’t seem interested in producing a story of rivals, more a survey of the two schools and what hockey provides these kids. There is a significant focus on the players’ health, both physically and mentally, and interviews routinely reveal that when the boys are not playing hockey, they are capable of getting into all kinds of trouble. But the pads and the puck provide focus, discipline and purpose. And though a few players stand out, Hockeyland is more about the team, the game and the towns than it is about the individual. 

ON SCREEN: Hockeyland, 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, Denver Film Society: Sie FilmCenter, 2510 E. Colfax Ave. Tickets: $13.25, denverfilm.org

Following the long, hot summer of 1967, the U.S. Army built a series of mock towns called “Riotsville,” serving as training grounds for military and police on how to deal with civil unrest at home. The trainings went hand in hand with demonstrations to stakeholders, photographed and filmed by the military.

“What are we looking at?” asks the narrator (Charlene Modeste) of Riotsville, U.S.A. Ask yourself the same throughout. Is this the past? The present? Could this police state be our future? 

One point of interest for director Sierra Pettengill’s scintillating documentary is the development and use of tear gas as a form of crowd control and riot mitigation. In one instance, police used so much tear gas that Miami demonstrators had to go home just for a breath of fresh air. This was the same tear gas soldiers used in the Vietnam War — a violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol. When that charge was levied at the U.S., the military pointed out that local police use it all the time to great effect.

Composed entirely of archival footage shot in the late-1960s, Riotsville uses text on-screen, narration and televised debates to paint a picture of a second nation existing parallel to the familiar narrative of the ’60s counter-culture, summer of love and space race. It feels like something out of George Orwell or Ray Bradbury. You could watch Riotsville, U.S.A. and think: “This is how we got here.” The better response might be: “How the hell are we still here?” 

ON SCREEN: Riotsville, U.S.A. Various times, Oct. 13-16, Dairy Arts Center: Boedecker Theater, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder. Tickets: $12, thedairy.org

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