Updated: Jun 20
Now that the dust is settling, what should we do now?
The George Floyd protests and riots are dying down, emotions are still running high. Something must change. But the change must start within us. The first step is to our minds. We must COME TOGETHER in order to have honest conversations. And we need to listen with empathy as well as reach out to others who are not in agreement. This combination will help us to open our eyes to truly see others’ plights. Movies are a great way to do that.
Here are three movies that encourage emotional journeys through laughter and relationships in the midst of the chaotic riots. The first movie is about the LA Riots of ’92 called COME TOGETHER. Charles B Unger wrote, produced and directed COME TOGETHER. His name may sound familiar because he also directed MY APOCALYPTIC THANKSGIVING.
If we as a society can only open up, we can Come Together.
Charlie’s movie COME TOGETHER follows several diverse college students in a high-pressure situation during the LA Riots of ‘92. The movie GOOK charms us into the household andhe business of a Korean family with deep relationships in the Black Community. LET IT FALL walks us through the LA Riots step-by-step. As a documentary, its insight into the police’s harmful tactics gives a societal timeline that lead to the tumultuous LA riots of ‘92.
COME TOGETHER – Charlie wrote and directed this film based on his real-life experiences at the University of Southern California (USC) while he was a student there. USC is situated in South Central Los Angeles, which was close to the epicenter of the riots. He sheltered at a friend’s house when USC evacuated students. They were all glued to the television set as they watched in horror as their city burned.
Don’t be fooled by the overt sexiness of COME TOGETHER. The film is an allegory of college students' hopes and dreams expressed through art and music trying to change the world. This also explores the deeper interpersonal and interracial relationships of college students coping with the stress of being in post LA Riots during 1992. They also reveal their deep insecurities through tantrums and immature behaviors to help them to get to what was really bothering them.
Gook - During a Sundance Interview, Ava DuVarney marveled at the opening shot of a young Black girl dancing against the backdrop of a burning building. Ava thought highly of the film.
GOOK is a heartwarming yet intense drama that unveils the life of two Korean brothers during the Riots of ‘92. They ran a family shoe store and formed an unlikely and playful relationship with a young black girl. Justin Chon wrote, directed and starred in this film that won the Audience Award at the Sundance film festival. The Korean brother’s shoe store is in Gardena city which is right next to Compton.
When the riots erupted in South Central LA, it spread like wildfire to other parts of Los Angeles County. Unfortunately, their lives and livelihoods were threatened when the city’s emotions ran high and a race war ignited in their neighborhood. Everyone quickly turned on one another and allies were divided along racial lines. In the middle were the brothers and young black girl and the little shoe store. It’s as if they were stranded in a lifeboat in the middle of an oil spill that was on fire. This is where they will take their last stance together.
There’s my truth. There’s your truth. Then there’s THE TRUTH. - John Ridley.
The LA riots rings close to my heart. My parents were shop owners in LA at the time. Being Asian business owners, at that moment, we felt like we had a target on our backs. We watched in horror as each city building in the near distance turned into smoke and flame. This smoke and flame approached closer and closer like a train of vengeance heading our way. I remember feeling so helpless. My Dad muttered and paced back and forth on whether to board up or not. He decided to grab the cash. I got my boombox. We left our glass front store and said our prayers. Then we drove home in silence. Luckily, our store was spared, but many were not.
Filmmaker John Ridley wrote and directed the documentary LET IT FALL. It gives an in-depth look at political seeds of unrest and the cultural tensions that erupted into a week-long emotional gut punch that notoriously became the LA Riots. He carefully interviews all the players: Koreans, Blacks, Police Officers, News Reporters and residents. All still are shaken when they recall their stories.
As part of their interviews, some police officers explain the different types of chokeholds. They didn’t know it affected people differently who were high on drugs. This film also explores South Central Los Angeles’ history using stock footage from networks, personal footage and oral history from many of the participants and observers. John follows along racial historical truth starting from the birth of the street gangs and LA’s merciless treatment of many Blacks. That event soon disappeared into the history pages.
The next generation of Angelenos lost their innocence the moment the video of Rodney King was released and exposed the corruption in the Los Angeles Police Department in addition to the daily frustrations of many Black residents at the time. John follows the cause and effect that led to the injustices that turned into the perfect storm of what was the LA Riots of ’92.