Filmmakers see hope — 25 years after LA riots

By Veronique Dupont — Late in the afternoon of April 29, 1992, the looting began in south Los Angeles, quickly escalating as motorists were dragged from their cars and vehicles set alight. In the downtown area a few miles away, an angry crowd began to build at the city police headquarters and, as day turned to night, protesters attacked uniformed officers and blocked traffic. The fuse had been lit by the acquittal of four white police officers filmed beating black motorist Rodney King with wooden batons. For six days, America’s second city was engulfed in fireball of rage in front of the world’s news cameras.
A documentary, Let It Fall, which opened theatrically in Los Angeles and New York on Friday, is among a number of films timed to mark the 25th anniversary of the riots. Written and directed by John Ridley, it offers first-hand testimony from black, white, Asian, and Hispanic Angelinos of all classes caught up in the violence. Ridley, who moved to LA a year before the riots, shows the violence as the almost inevitable culmination of a decade of heightening racial tensions, gang wars, drug crime and police brutality. The other documentary looking at the LA riots is L A Burning, co-produced for the A&E channel with Boyz n the Hood director John Singleton, which recently had its premiere.
On the narrative front, Kings, a romance starring Daniel Craig and Halle Berry which is due for release later in the year, is set amid the civil unrest, while Gook, by Justin Chon, focuses on tensions between African Americans and Korean traders. After several lawsuits, King ended up with $3.8 million in damages from the Los Angeles authorities. But he was dogged by depression and nightmares, and in 2012 was found dead in a swimming pool after taking a cocktail of alcohol and drugs. He was 47.  L A Burning ends on images of the 2014-2015 Ferguson riots which followed the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed by white policemen, and unrest in Baltimore after the 2015 death in police custody of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.
“There are still issues. They’re complicated, they’re beyond race,” Ridley said.  “You look at Baltimore. You see people of color represented in uniform and still people being victimised. These are complicated issues.” —AFP