LA 92: A Transformative Documentary about the 1992 LA Riots

The synopsis of “LA 92” references the Rodney King verdict that sparked the 1992 riots, the protests, violence, lootings, and arson that followed. It continues, “Twenty-five years later, the documentary “LA 92,” from directors Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin explores the events leading to the violence, as well as the chaos and destruction that happened told only through archived news reports and footage of a city caught up in racial conflict and police brutality.”

This is a great synopsis, but nothing about it prepares you for the amazing editing, storytelling and music that drives this visually stimulating narrative, which is painstakingly derived from over 2000 hours of raw footage. “LA 92” chronicles one the most painful experiences for the city of Los Angeles, showing the blistering truth of the 1992 LA riots as they unfold, in what seems like real time. “LA 92” was co-directed by T.J. Martin and co-director Daniel Lindsay (2011/12 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature for “Undefeated”).

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Karen Bass

Martin and Lindsay put together this impressive documentary using over 2000 hours of footage. The film tells the LA Riot story in a mostly linear fashion without voice overs or talking heads. It has a particularly moving soundtrack reminiscent of Philip Glass’ “Koyaanisqatsi.” This National Geographic film didn’t need any narration to offer insights because it’s so powerful. It is marvelously self-contained and profoundly moving. The footage is so interconnected that you are transported from pure observation to becoming more involved as the story unfolds. It evokes powerful emotions and a sense of intimacy for the viewer that few docs I’ve seen have succeeded in doing.

It’s as you were there, in the moment, your awareness is heightened and your heart beat rises as it nears the climax of the Simi Valley jury’s unfortunate verdict and the historic riot. The experience was as real and palpable as the day it happened and you could feel every nuance of the human condition: anger, fear, staggering violence and the mayhem that defined those few days in Los Angeles. The racism is up close and personal. The injustice is obvious. Daryl Gates vindictiveness is keenly revealed, as is his caustic inhumanity. His role as LA’s police chief is clearly instrumental in letting LA erupt into anarchy, violence and flames. It becomes apparent why the African-American community responded with such anger and violence. In light of discounting the most obvious evidence, which was documented by a neutral party–the video of Rodney King’s police beating. Police brutality, already known all too well in the black community, becomes evident in the live video footage shot by George Holliday. The video was followed by the trail of the offending police in the predominantly white Simi Valley courthouse. At the trial, the jury exonerated Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno. The injustice was all the chemistry needed for an explosive outcome, which set off a chain of events that would leave LA burned out and tattered.

LA 92 is a brilliantly conceived documentary with a production value that deserves awards. It needs to be seen by everyone. It is as vital as a daily news reel. 2017 was the 25th anniversary of the LA Riots’ we should commemorate this date with respect, and commiserate with other Angelenos, for the people who we collectively lost, and the damages we sustained in the ensuing violent days that have stained and profoundly changed LA. LA 92 is a must see film that vivifies the reality and the horror that was the LA Riot.

Billy Bennight

About Billy Bennight

Billy Bennight is a writer, photographer and wardrobe stylist with expertise and years of experience in these disciplines. His musical youth started as a Punk Rocker and has expanded into exploring many genres of music, with an keen interest in art, fashion, photography and writing. He shoots celebrity events and red carpets for The Photo Access and ZUMA Press. He is a member of the Los Angeles Art Association. His images have been published in The Los Angeles Times, People Magazine, Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair. He's very engaged in life. You can follow him on his Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/billybennightartist and on Instagram and Twitter @billybennight
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