As the country prepares to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles uprising in April, we can now count at least 7 projects on the subject that are at some stage of development, set to premiere this month, or some time later this year.
First, John Ridley is directing 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 this month.
A&E commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots with a two-hour documentary co-produced by John Singleton. Titled “L.A. Burning: The Riots 25 Years Later,” the film 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.
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.
And 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.” 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.
Also National Geographic Documentary Films presents “LA 92,” a riveting look back at the controversial Rodney King trial and subsequent protests, violence and looting of the city. Viewed from a multitude of vantage points through visceral and rarely seen archival footage, the film brings a fresh perspective to a pivotal moment that reverberates to this day. Using no narration or talking head interviews, the filmmakers decided to take a bold approach: to reconstruct the tumultuous events that unfolded in 1992 by exclusively using archival footage and photographs. Culling thousands of hours of visceral broadcast news footage, radio reports, police files and personal home videos – some of which have never been broadcast – the filmmakers tell the story through a variety of different points of view and perspectives and set it all to a rich orchestral score composed by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans.
Spike Lee directed a taping of Roger Guenveur Smith’s one-man Rodney King show, which was 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. In the piece, promising a collision of history, poetry, and tragedy, Smith tackles the harrowing odyssey of Rodney King, from the national spotlight as the victim of police brutality, to his involuntary martyrdom that ignited the L.A. riots, to his lonely death at the bottom of a swimming pool.
And finally, Showtime will premiere the new feature-length documentary “Burn Motherf*cker, Burn!”, an in-depth and provocative look at the watershed moment that influenced the political, social and cultural fabric of the city of Los Angeles and the country.
Directed by Sacha Jenkins (“Fresh Dressed”), “Burn Motherf*cker, Burn!” begins by exploring the complicated relationship between the Los Angeles Police Department and the city’s black and minority communities. The film traces 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.
A year later, on April 29, 1992, four LAPD officers were acquitted by a Simi Valley jury on charges of assault, lighting the fuse for the uprising that began that evening and continued for days.
Through the backdrop of these inflection points, the conflict is seen through the lens of three generations of local residents, community organizers, artists and influencers who lived through the uprising, illustrating the root causes, and the continued struggle for social justice.
The films features interviews from a diverse group of Los Angelenos including: Danny Bakewell Sr., Rep. Karen Bass, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, Jeff Chang, Perry Farrell, Everlast, B-Real, Cle “Bone” Sloan, KAM, YoYo, Dee Barnes, Norwood Fisher, Dee Dee McNeil, Aqeela Sherrills, Mike Davis, Connie Rice and Norma Mtume.
“Burn Motherf*cker, Burn!” is produced and directed by Sacha Jenkins, and executive produced by Misha Louy on behalf of Mass Appeal.
The 90-minute documentary premieres on Showtime on April 21 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, and airs again on April 29 also at 9 p.m.
In the below “inside look” clip, Jenkins has a candid and frank conversation with Chief Charles Beck of the Los Angeles Police Department. They discuss race, the relationship between police and civilians and more. And underneath the clip is a trailer for the documentary.
A trailer for “Burn Motherf*cker, Burn!” is embedded below: