LA 92 ★★★★

”What shall it avail our nation if we can place a man on the moon but cannot cure the sickness in our cities?”

March 3, 1991. A taxi driver becomes involved in a high-speed chase with the LAPD after refusing to pull over due to speeding. After finally giving up the driver and the man that accompanied him were ordered to step out of the vehicle. What unfolded next was an episode of racially driven police brutality. Rodney King was violently assaulted by four police officers who hit the defenseless man dozens of times with batons. This incident would have been swept under the rug were it not for someone filming the savagery of the officers’ actions.

King’s bones were broken and so was the spirit of the entire city of Los Angeles when the tape was disclosed through the media. The wave of rage that shook the black community to its core was amplified by the Justice System’s decision to pardon the actions of the LAPD officers and the woman who murdered Latasha Harlins. Blinded by a fury that was fueled by injustice and racism, people reacted impulsively and fought fire with fire. A time bomb that had been ticking for decades was once again set off and the result was flames, violence and death. The self-destruction of the city of dreams.

T.J Martin and Daniel Lindsay’s breakthrough is a minute-by-minute dissection of the riots that devastated the city of Los Angeles in 1992. We get the sense that we’re watching the events unfold in real time. We see the snowball gaining weight and momentum as the hours pass by. The pressure-cooker hit a level of such extreme pressure that it finally blew up - all there was left afterwards was chaos and suffering. The editing work that ties these archive images together is fantastic and the musical score adds a cinematic flavor to an endeavor that is bursting with social urgency.

The images of police brutality and furious rioting echo powerfully – particularly given that more recent events, such as what occurred in Ferguson three years ago, have shown that little has changed in the United States. In addition, the election of Donald J. Trump has made the divide between two America’s, one progressive and one that wants to keep living in the past, even more evident. Be that as it may, the overreliance on archive footage, almost the entirety of the documentary is anchored on footage that was broadcasted on television, is problematic as it blurs the line between sensationalism and truth. ‘LA 92’ may lack some posteriori insight but the immediacy of the experience and the skill of the storytelling are enough to make this one of the most important non-fiction features of the year.