When there’s a riot go­ing on

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Pay Television - LA 92: The Ri­ots,

Loot­ers take to the streets of Los An­ge­les on April 29, 1992, fol­low­ing the po­lice beat­ing of Rod­ney King Broadly speak­ing, there are two dis­tinct ap­proaches to mak­ing a doc­u­men­tary film, each with its own ad­van­tages and draw­backs. The first and cur­rently preva­lent style is a nar­ra­tive mas­saged by talk­ing head in­ter­views, spe­cial ef­fects and even an­i­ma­tion to sup­ple­ment ex­ist­ing footage. The se­cond is a more or­ganic and im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in which the film­maker es­chews such fris­sons and con­cen­trates on build­ing that nar­ra­tive with archival and home movie sources to move the story for­ward.

The lat­ter is the ap­proach used to great suc­cess by di­rec­tors Dan Lind­say and TJ Martin for LA 92: The Ri­ots, a minute-by-minute, youare-there ac­count­ing of the vi­o­lent un­rest that oc­curred in South Cen­tral Los An­ge­les in the wake of the ac­quit­tal of four white po­lice of­fi­cers ac­cused of beat­ing black mo­torist Rod­ney King 25 years ago.

The ver­dict that sparked the vi­o­lence oc­curs nearly 40 min­utes into the film; be­fore that Lind­say and Martin lay the his­tor­i­cal ground­work that in­cludes the 1965 Watts riot, hard­liner Daryl Gates’s as­cen­sion to LA po­lice chief and the elec­tion of the city’s first black mayor, Tom Bradley.

The riot it­self is ex­haus­tively cov­ered, with pow­er­ful footage and propul­sive edit­ing that speaks vol­umes about the frus­tra­tion of the res­i­dents and the con­fu­sion of the au­thor­i­ties (all ex­cept con­gress­woman Max­ine Wa­ters, a voice of rea­son in the rub­ble).

The film’s over­ar­ch­ing theme is best de­scribed by a news­man sum­ming up the Watts riot: “What shall it avail our nation,” he in­tones, “if we can place a man on the moon but can­not cure the sick­ness in our cities?” At once riv­et­ing and sober­ing, this is a timely, im­por­tant work. Sun­day, 8.30pm, NatGeo

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