• BY Johanna Hamilton | IN Civil Liberties
    Premiered May 18, 2015

About the Film

In the past several decades, whistleblowers have helped shape the nation’s history, from Deep Throat exposing President Nixon’s Watergate scandal to Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s surveillance. But long before the dawning of the digital age, one group of citizens risked everything when they uncovered illegal government spying programs.

The FBI, established in 1908, was for 60 years held unaccountable and untouchable until March 8, 1971, when The Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI, as they called themselves, broke into a small FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, took every file, and shared them with the American public. MORE

After the break-in, the group sent the files to journalists at the Washington Post, which published them and shed light on the FBI’s widespread abuse of power. These actions exposed COINTELPRO, the FBI's illegal surveillance program that involved the intimidation of law-abiding Americans, and helped lead to the country's first congressional investigation of U.S. intelligence agencies.

The activist-burglars then disappeared into anonymity for forty years. Until now. Never caught, these previously anonymous Americans — parents, teachers and citizens — publicly reveal themselves for the first time and share their story in the documentary 1971. Using a mix of dramatic re-enactments and candid interviews with all involved, the film vividly brings to life one of the more important, yet relatively unexplored, chapters in modern American history.

The Filmmaker

Johanna Hamilton

Headshot of 1971 director Johanna Hamilton.Johanna Hamilton co-produced Pray the Devil Back to Hell, the gripping account of a group of brave, visionary women who demanded peace for Liberia, a nation torn to shreds by a decades-long civil war. The film won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, was shortlisted for an Academy Award, and premiered on PBS as part of the Women, War & Peace miniseries. Hamilton has produced non-fiction programs for PBS, History Channel, A&E, Discovery, The Washington Post/Newsweek Productions, and New York Times Television, among others. Her career began in South Africa, where she worked for that nation’s premiere investigative magazine program, Carte Blanche. Hamilton graduated from the University of London and has an MA in Broadcast Journalism from New York University. 1971 is her feature-length documentary directorial debut.


Film Credits

A Film by
Johanna Hamilton

Directed and Produced by
Johanna Hamilton

Edited by
Gabriel Rhodes

Produced by
Marilyn Ness
Katy Chevigny

Executive Producers
Julie Goldman
Abigail E. Disney
Gini Reticker
Laura Poitras

Cinematographer (Interviews)
Kirsten Johnson

Cinematographer (Recreations)
Andreas Burgess

Original Music
Philip Sheppard

Written by
Johanna Hamilton
Gabriel Rhodes

Associate Producer
Danielle Varga

Animation and Motion Graphics
Dave Tecson

Additional Photography
Neil Barrett
Nicholas Blair

Judy Karp
Mark Maloof
John Zecca
Nejc Poberaj

Recreations Unit

Recreations Producer
Maureen A. Ryan

Production Designer
Markus Kirschner

First Assistant Director
Sara Neuffer

Production Manager
Brian Birch

Art Director
Shawn Anabel

Casting Director
Adine Duron

Peter Gregus: Bill
Lauren A. Kennedy: Bonnie
Jonathan Joel Brennan: Bob
Rich Graff: John
Daniel S. Taylor: Keith
Dennis Brito: FBI Agent
John Isgro: Custodian
Kerry Malloy: FBI Agent
Brian P. McCarthy: #9
Matthew Smith: Citizens’ Commission
Marilyn Ness: Citizens’ Commission
Danielle Varga: Citizens’ Commission
Paul Darren: Security Guard

The filmmakers do not know the three unidentified burglars or the ninth person who withdrew from the break-in team.
Any similarities that may exist between any of them and the actors in the reenactments are purely coincidental.

Costume Designer
Eniola Dawodu

Key Hair/Makeup Artist
Vera Stromsted

Nicola Guarneri

First Assistant Camera
Alex Peterson George Alvarez

Production Coordinator
Jacey Heldrich

Assistant Editors
Eric Rockey
Nora Ballard
Michael Peterson

Archival Clearances
Nan Wakefield

Legal Services
Karen Shatzkin

Post Production Services
Final Frame

Digital Intermediate Online Editor
Owen Rucker

Digital Intermediate Colorist
Will Cox

Digital Intermediate Producer
Caitlin Tartaro

Audio Post Provided by
Gigantic Post, NYC

Sound Designer and Re-Recording Mixer
Tom Paul

Dialogue Editor
Sam Edelstein

Sound Effects Editor
Andrea Bella

Foley Artist
Les Bloom

Foley Mixer
Carl Shillito

Phil Lane
Kelley A. Trotter

Archival Materials
All in the Family ©1972 Tandem Productions, Inc.
Episode "Archie and the FBI."
Fight of the Champions © 1971
Director: Art Fisher Producers: Neal Marshall & Art Fischer
Interview with former FBI agent Terry Neist by Sam Green
© The Free History Project
ABCNEWS VideoSource and WPVI
Critical Past
FBI ©1965 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Historic Films
Pat McGrath
National Archives and Records Administration
NBC Universal Archives
Nixon Library
Oddball Film & Video
San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive
Temple Urban Archives
UCLA Film & Television Archive
WPA Film Library
Anne Flitcraft
Associated Press
Baltimore Sun Media Group
Chicago Tribune
Courier Post, Cherry Hill
Carl Stern
Delaware County Times
Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester, NY
The Raines Family
Keith Forsyth
Sarah Davidon
David Kairys
Delaware County History
Getty Images
Greg Moore
Haverford College
Life Magazine
Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection
LSUS Archives and Special Collections
New York Times
Philadelphia Inquirer
Saint Joseph’s University Archives
Theodore Hetzel Photograph Collection
Swarthmore College Peace Collection
Anthony Giacchino Camden 28 [Motion Picture] Collection
Swarthmore College Peace Collection
Temple Urban Archives
University of Arkansas Libraries Special Collections
Washington Post
Washington Star

“I Spy (For the F.B.I.) / Foxy Devil”
Luther Ingram & The G-Men‎
Smash Records Re-released in 1971 following the revelations of the Media Burglary

“A Whole New You”
Written by Enion Pelta-Tiller
Arranged and Recorded by David Tiller and Enion Pelta-Tiller
Taarka, 2012

Special Thanks
The Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI
Sarah Davidon
James Kirkpatrick Davis
Paco de Onis
Kate Doyle
Henry Dunn
Mike German
David Kairys
Betty Medsger
Laura Poitras
Thom Powers, Ian Olds, and Rachel Rakes
Max, Theo and Layla van Zyl
Paul van Zyl
Ben Wizner
Pam Yates

Fiscal Sponsor
Women Make Movies, Inc.

Executive Producer for ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer

Funding provided by
The Ford Foundation JustFilms
Candescent Films
Fork Films
Open Society Foundations
Sundance Documentary Film Program
New York State Council on the Arts
The Fledgling Fund
San Francisco Film Society
Richard and Marianne Hamilton
The Fund For Constitutional Government
Vital Projects Fund
Steward R. Mott Foundation
Michael Hirschhorn and Jimena Martinez
AMJ Foundation
Susan Parker and Alan Belzer
Keating Hawkins Gift Fund
Puffin Foundation
David Rudovsky
Dr. Edward Herman
Rick Cummings
Josh Markel and Eva Gold

1971 is a co-production of Maximum Pictures LLC and the Independent Television Service (ITVS) in association with Big Mouth Productions, Motto Pictures, and Fork Films, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)

This film was produced by Maximum Pictures, LLC, which is solely responsible for its content.

The Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI thought what they were doing was the right thing — do you agree? How much would you risk if you thought the government or another entity was doing something wrong? Where do more recent cases like Wikileaks and Edward Snowden fit alongside the 1971 whistleblowers?
Please review our comment guidelines.
The Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI thought what they were doing was the right thing — do you agree? How much would you risk if you thought the government or another entity was doing something wrong? Where do more recent cases like Wikileaks and Edward Snowden fit alongside the 1971 whistleblowers?