A look at the 6 films exploring the LA riots, 25 years later

In this April 30, 1992 file photo, smoke rises from a shopping center burned by rioters in Los Angeles after four police officers had been acquitted of the 1991 beating of motorist Rodney King. Six documentaries about the 1992 Los Angeles riots are being released to mark the 25th anniversary of the most destructive civil disturbance in US history. Most are coming to TV this month. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

LOS ANGELES | Los Angeles erupted into the most destructive civil disturbance in US history on April 29, 1992, and the 25th anniversary is being marked by six documentaries exploring the roots and lingering impact of the LA riots. All include the 1991 videotaped footage of a group of white police officers relentlessly beating unarmed black motorist Rodney King, and coverage of their acquittal the following year that touched off three days of unchecked violence, arson and looting. Despite similar imagery, each of the films approaches the events through a slightly different lens.

 

• “Burn Motherf———, Burn ” (Showtime): Sacha Jenkins incorporates animation and the music of the early ’90s in his film exploring the history of the Los Angeles Police Department and its relationship with LA’s black residents. It charts the rise of former police chief William Parker — who was celebrated for his post-World War II modernization of the LAPD and criticized for his separatist attitudes toward communities of color — through the 1965 Watts riots and up to present day with interviews with current chief Charlie Beck and cellphone footage of police shooting an unarmed black man in downtown LA in 2015. Premieres Friday.

• “LA 92 ” (National Geographic): Oscar-winning documentarians Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin find the roots of 1992’s civil unrest in the Watts riots and the 1991 killing of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins by shopkeeper Soon Ja Du, who was convicted of manslaughter but received no jail time. It tracks the long history of police brutality in black communities and the growing tensions between blacks and Koreans after Harlins’ death, and explores the role the riots may have played in the 1992 presidential election. Opens theatrically on April 28 and comes to National Geographic Channel on April 30.

• “L.A. Burning: The Riots 25 Years Later ” (A&E): Produced by and featuring Oscar-nominated writer-director John Singleton, this film opens with video footage of the 2016 fatal police shootings of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana, along with the protests that followed the high-profile deaths of other young black men at the hands of police. Directors One9 and Erik Parker provide a mix of LAPD history, interviews with the men who attacked truck driver Reginald Denny and the perspective of a former lieutenant tasked with responding to the riot epicenter at the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues. Premiered Tuesday.

• “L.A. Riots: 25 Years Later ” (History Channel): Filmmakers Jenna Rosher and Mark Ford explore the past and present in this film, from the Watts riots to Black Lives Matter. It looks at the history of police relations in LA’s black community, exacerbated by drugs and gangs in the ’80s and the LAPD’s aggressive response, which included destructive home invasions. It explores the political implications of the tenuous relationship between police chief Gates and mayor Tom Bradley, who both left office shortly after the riots. Premieres April 23.

• “Let it Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992 ” (ABC): Oscar winner John Ridley focuses on racial tensions in the decade leading up to what he calls the 1992 uprising. Interview subjects include neighborhood residents, police officers, jurors who served on the King beating trial, as well as victims, witnesses and perpetrators of the ensuing violence. Ridley also explores LAPD policies, including its use of the battering ram during the crack epidemic of the ’80s and banning of the chokehold in 1982. Opens theatrically Friday; airing on ABC on April 28.

• “The Lost Tapes: LA Riots ” (Smithsonian Channel): Former newspaper reporter Tom Jennings’ film skips interviews and narration in favor of voices and images directly from 1992. The film relies on footage taken by neighborhood residents and Los Angeles Police Department cameras, along with audio from local radio station KJLH, which abandoned its traditional music format during the unrest to take calls from the community about their fears and concerns as the city was torn apart. Premieres Sunday.

 

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