Though there have been others earlier this year, Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin’s documentary LA 92 is the third film in recent months, after John Ridley’s documentary Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992 and Justin Chon’s narrative Gook, to look back on the riots following the Rodney King verdicts some 25 years ago. (Happy Silver Anniversary of a shameful injustice, America! How’s that whole “making yourself great again” thing working out?) Other than using the 1965 Watts Riots as a bookend, LA 92 keeps its focus close on the King verdict and subsequent riots as they were responded to at the time; there are no modern talking heads, and the majority of the narrative is told by contemporary footage with on-screen text to fill in the gaps.
In addition to being composed of horrifying found footage, LA 92 consciously evokes a found-footage horror film. Glitchy transitions are used, and a montage of noisy snippets intercut with a silent black screen is more unsettling than a dozen Paranormal Activity films. It’s also worth noting that the rioting on L.A. streets in ’92 is not worlds apart from what happened on the streets of San Francisco when our local sportsball collective won the Big Game in ’10, ’12, and ’14. Sociologists should probably study that.
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.