As the country prepares to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles uprising in April, we can now count 6 projects on the subject that are at some stage of development, set to premiere in the next month, or some time later this year.
First, Showtime’s new feature-length documentary “Burn Motherf*cker, Burn!”, directed by Sacha Jenkins (“Fresh Dressed”), will explore the complicated relationship between the Los Angeles Police Department and the city’s black and minority communities, tracing a throughline from the 1962 ransacking of a Los Angeles Nation of Islam mosque (which left many injured and one man dead), to the 1965 Watts riots, the rise of L.A. street gangs in the 1970s and ’80s, and the Rodney King beating in 1991.
There’s also writer/director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s English-language feature film debut, “Kings,” which stars Halle Berry, in a story set during the 1992 Los Angeles riots that followed the acquittal of the police officers charged with the excessive beating of Rodney King. Berry plays a mother living in South Central, Los Angeles, where the riots began; Daniel Craig plays a white male neighbor and love interest to Berry’s character.
John Ridley is working on a feature length documentary for ABC about the racial tensions in Los Angeles in the ’80s and early ’90s, pegged to the 25th anniversary of the 1992 riots. The two-hour doc, “Let It Fall: LA 1982-1992,” will get a theatrical release before it airs on ABC in spring 2017.
Spike Lee has directed a taping of Roger Guenveur Smith’s one-man Rodney King show, which has been picked up by Netflix to premiere on April 28 – a date that coincides with what will be the 25th anniversary of the acquittals of the LAPD officers who were videotaped brutally beating King in 1991. Titled “Rodney King,” the work is an adaptation of Smith’s Bessie Award-winning stage production of the same name.
A&E will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots next month with a two-hour documentary co-produced by John Singleton. Titled “L.A. Burning: The Riots 25 Years Later,” A&E has set an April 18 premiere for the film which will chronicle the civil unrest that shook the nation, telling the story from the POV of those who lived through it all, including police officers, rioters, bystanders caught in the crossfire, and the reporters who covered the chaos.
And there might be others…
Announced today, the Smithsonian Channel will revisit the chaotic days following the April 29, 1992 Rodney King verdict, incorporating powerful media coverage, home videos, gripping photographs and LAPD recordings, in the April 23 installment of its documentary series, “The Lost Tapes.”
On the afternoon of April 29, 1992, the acquittal of four white LAPD officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney King set off an explosion of anger and frustration that erupted into deadly riots and devastated the already precarious social climate in Los Angeles. Resentment against the police, which had a reputation for using excessive force, turned the city into a war zone.
The documentary also includes some never-before-heard Los Angeles Fire Department dispatch calls, in which firefighters in the field are desperately pleading for police backup as they were being fired upon. Promising “the ultimate in authentic storytelling,” as well as a “unique and immersive approach,” the film features no interviews or recreations – just the story as captured by video cameras and media reports at the time.
In the course of making the film, Peabody Award-winning director Tom Jennings discovered that the Los Angeles Police Department had sent its own camera crews into the maelstrom. “I covered the riots, and I didn’t even know this material existed,” Jennings said.
Another critical source was radio station KJLH in Compton, Calif., which dropped its music format and went all news and talk for three days, becoming an essential outlet for the community throughout the chaos. “It was a place that reported the riot story from the middle of the riots,” Jennings said. “And it served as a haven for people in the community to call in and vent, cry and get information.”
Raw, emotional accounts on all sides will immerse viewers into the action of a seminal event in American history – and one that remains all too relevant 25 years later.
“The Lost Tapes: LA Riots” premieres Sunday, April 23 at 8 p.m. ET/PT to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the events.
The series is produced by Tom Jennings of 1895 Films, the same team behind the Peabody Award-winning “MLK: The Assassination Tapes.” Executive producers for Smithsonian Channel are David Royle, Charles Poe and John Cavanagh.