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TRIBECA REVIEW: 'LA 92'

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4.5 Rustys

NEW YORK — I kick.

It's April 29th, 1992 and I'm four months away from being born. I imagine my mother getting back from a doctor's checkup to see footage of riots in LA spurring from a breaking point of racial tension. She has a completely outside perceptive living in Oklahoma. I will be born in a predominately red state that tries to stiffen racial equality.

When the LA Riots dispersed from the corners of Florence and Normandie, it was a result of racial aggressors cornering an entire ethnic community in a corner. They backed them up, watched them cower in fear as their grins glistened their police batons and were left speechless when they eventually got bit back.

The LAPD were shaking and waiting inside their barricaded headquarters at the events they would be powerless to stop. Screaming about peace can only get most people through the day for so long.

LA 92 is a very unique experience. No interviews from civil rights experts. No real stance of right or wrong on the actions. Just raw archival footage from the Watts Riots of ‘65, the beating of Rodney King and the subsequent reactions to the trial and the fiery aftermath. A string-filled score cuts through scenes at pivotal scenes—never to be distracting or obtuse, but to give the documentary its natural sense of movement.

Tensions between the black and Korean community are detailed in ways I was completely ignorant on before viewing this doc. A majority of looters and rioters seemed to target Korean markets and bystanders for revenge of a Korean shopkeeper, Soon Ja Du, who shot and killed unarmed 16-year-old black girl and got away with a reduced community service sentence. This was another action combined with the Rodney King trial and decades of abuse from police on the black community that broke the stride of any type of peaceful protest.

Standard documentaries tend to not be anything other than a reading of a historical event with historians and experts on screens reaffirming what happened. One of the two directors, T.J. Martin, said he wanted to avoid falseness from having experts guide you through the events and just to let the events speak for themselves. No external blame is put on either side of the line, letting the audiences come to their own conclusions and be disgusted by whatever they feel hits them the most.

Oddly enough, one of the greatest documentaries in the past decade, OJ: Made in America, is told in this standard form and it's just as enthralling. It matters on the directors behind the footage and how they decide to use it. LA 92 would have been a run-of-the-mill doc if given current talking heads time in front of the camera and a stock piano score.

Major cultural events don't need extravagant budgeted documentaries to get the audience to understand why it’s culturally relevant or impactful. 102 Minutes That Changed America did something similar with the September 11th terrorist attacks, yet LA 92 goes a step forward to show everything from the ‘60s that gave way for the events in '92 to transpire.

You can't do this for every important historical event since the inception of television and radio media, and come out with the same results. The directors hit the right spots along the way to deliver the most immersive nonfiction experience in a while.

The other director, Daniel Lindsay, stated in a post-screening Q&A that he didn't want the film framed in a way that tried to showcase definite answers and or even rationalized the actions when there’s still no cut-and-dry answers available.

LA 92 is truly one-of-a-kind in the art of showcasing groundbreaking events in a very minimalistic and simple way that: by letting the events unfold on the viewers 25 years later like they did 25 years prior.

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About the Author

Kevin Tudor

Born and raised in the mean streets of Yukon, Oklahoma, Kevin is currently majoring in...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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