LA 92 Review - Graphic, Brutal, Shocking Footage of LA Riots

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LA 92, the National Geographic documentary, is one of four films that have been released on the Rodney King verdict and subsequent violence that erupted almost immediately and continued over a three-day period in April 1992.

Directed by Academy award winning directors Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin and Lightbox Entertainment, LA 92 presents an up close and personal account of what has become known as the Rodney King Riots, staring at the verdict, at the very courthouse in Simi Valley, spilling over into the streets of South Central, and tracking the fires, looted business, and killings over a three-day time.

The 25th Anniversary of the LA Riots sparked over the acquittal of four officers who were videotaped beating an African American, shocked the nation, and every politician and law enforcement official in Los Angeles, and California, also denounced the verdict.

What followed made the world wonder if it was injustice, if the videotape was only the end result of rage that was not captured. To understand race in Los Angeles, the directors provided the history of the Watts riots some twenty-seven years previous.

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LA 92 remains a calm account, really, until the verdict, when an insidious spirit came upon the crowd, and the injustice of Latasha Harlins, no jail time for the convicted killer a Korean store owner in South Central who believed Harlins was shoplifting Orange Juice to this the Verdict which proved to the people that police brutality was allowed. It was too much, and too soon between these troubling events.

Which is when LA 92 becomes a gritty, graphic, brutal presentation. There is no voice over distracting viewers from the actual events, only shocked accounts from news crews and anchors as live footage, which had been broadcast to the world, as mobs ripped open car doors, pelted automobiles with bricks and cement blocks, forcing people to run for their lives.

Archival news footage Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, the national news voices at the time, the local news crews, which networks sent women into angry mobs expecting the "weaker" or softer gender to produce calm, a distraction, which was ludicrous as the situation was out of control and the documentary shows that extent of societal degradation.

The documentary also  presents grievous time lapses by Daryl Gates, LA's top cop at the time, former Mayor Tom Bradley, Los Angeles Mayor, the first African American Mayor of any major city and California Governor Pete Wilson.

The wait and see approach before calling in the National Guard was a mistake. A stronger military presence would have cut down on damages and deaths.

I received a "not cleared for broadcast" screening link and so some footage may not be included in the cable airing. The footage, captured by news crews, news copters, and others who braved streets, escalating violence and quickly deteriorating civility became the first hand account, and possibly the only memory ever, of South Central.

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What is shown simply leaves one wondering, as the mob takes over, if those active killers who responded to the Rodney King verdict with a violence begets violence attitude, who took to the streets, targeting motorists at random, becoming savage taking on the personality of a rabid animal, enacting a violent tribal response to a killing of one of their own, where death and nearly instantaneous orders that those white boys who passed by a particular South Central intersection would be "fucked up" expected to be heard and treated with civility allowing leaders within the community to rationalize the violence?

What follows is the degeneration of society where one time neighbors became animalistic, using their vehicles as weapons disabling passing white and Korean motorists, setting up the kill, dragging owners from damaged vehicles, pulverizing, beating, lynch mobs who stopped short of stringing the whites up by a noose.

The violence that spilled over portrayed a people who had been teetering on the edge of this catastrophe for some time, the Watts Riots of 1965, may have been thirty years before and still the ingrained belief of injustice, was the finger on the trigger, just waiting for the moment.

The outcry of injustice was justified the violence was not. I wondered as I watched those incited the violence, those men who have aged 25 years, and now sitting in some lazy boy lounge chair watching the riot tapes replay, do the stand up and cheer at their actions, has time soften the hatred and or the belief that white people are the problem, and the root cause of every problem the black man has faced in his entire life, while taking no responsibility for his own actions?

The recent Black Lives Matter movement, has ignited the same root in the hearts of the people. Injustice is more than difficult to understand, injustice can be incapacitating, as shocking as violence, stifling, and choking, and injustice often comes from those who have pledged allegiance, a loyalty, to uphold impartiality.

During grave times of injustice understanding the motivation is impossible, the blindness of the injury is the red flag waved in front of the bull and honestly the tool to have society remember only the actions of the violent.

Reinforcing the stereotype is the easiest path to negating the initial injustice. Which is what we see in LA 92, the violent, uncontrollable, African Americans became a mob of vicious, brutal, killers, unable to control or calm themselves. So much so the police were withdrawn, fearing for the safety of the officers, and allowing the world to see anarchy in action.

Seeing the documentary now, still creates the innate fear that at a moment's notice the widespread race hate will boil over and spill once again into the streets and as happenstance would have it two paths, the white and negro meet.

Watching men, who twenty-five years later are watching themselves as part of the aggressor, do they see their actions with a small hidden pride?

Can they own their actions, now 25 years later? Can they stand up and say to neighbors at the bar-b-que, "Oh I was there" or as they swap stories of that night or those days do they soften or as time often does smooth the rough edges off their actions that left many dead, injured and homes, business, lives burned looted and destroyed or do they let the moment and memory pass?

LA 92 ends with a city divided; a community burned and a people determined to work through the horrific violence and begin the clean up. Led by native East Los Angeles actor James Edward Olmos, members of the Hispanic community came together along with truckloads of concerned neighbors. The Korean community, targeted, during those days also came together in the same community with a silent, demonstration of peace. Thousands from the Asian community showed up with signs, silently sitting, voicing their opinion, belief and support.

LA 92 is a must see film. Be prepared to be riveted, as the troubling events unfold.

LA 92 premiered recently at the Tribeca Film Festival Following the premiere at Tribeca, the film will complete a multi-city screening tour including Baltimore; Charlotte; St. Louis; Washington, D.C.; and Atlanta.  

Additionally, a limited theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles begins Friday, April 28, and LA 92 makes its television broadcast debut on National Geographic on Sunday, April 30, at 9:00pm/8:00pm (c) and will also air globally in 171 countries and 45 languages.