JWR Articles: Film/DVD - LA 92 | Swim Team | Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992 (Directors: Dan Lindsay, T.J. Martin, Lara Stolman, John Ridley) - February 2, 2018

LA 92 | Swim Team | Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992

4.5 4.5

Three films that both celebrate and condemn the human experience

LA 92
Dan Lindsay, T.J. Martin
114 mins, 2017
Four and one half stars

“Can we all get along?”

In 2018, it is always safe to assume that everything we do, everywhere we go, everyplace we surf is—in ever-increasing ways—being recorded. True (and expected) privacy is as rare as it is coveted. (Trouble is, how does anyone uncategorically know that no one is “looking in”?)

In 1992, if it hadn’t been for a nearby resident with a fully functional camera, the ugly, cruel takedown and beating of Rodney King would just go into the lore of some LA cops who never passed by a nigger they didn’t want to arrest.

The ensuing trial, as is well known, by an all-white judge and jury in definitely-not-South LA and subsequent acquittal of the four officers accused on all but one of the many charges set off a tsunami of outrage, soon escalating to death, destruction and social mayhem not yet seen in the Land of the Free. Why should anyone have been surprised, much less not have seen it coming?

The answer is pathetically simple: Because no one has ever dared to stand up to white is right is might in such numbers before.

To try and calm things down, King courageously offered to speak on camera and urge everyone to tone it down because, “We’re all stuck here for a while.”

That speech was followed up by aerial shots of the burned out shells of buildings that gave visual proof (just as King’s misery at the hands of law enforcement did) of the scope of the devastation. Next up, President George Bush’s address to the nation decisively proved how little he and his speech writers understood about the why, dwelling on the how.

Then the community spoke: Latinos “marched” through the streets hoisting brooms and shovels on their way to help clean up the mess. It then fell to the large Korean community (one of their number having been responsible for the senseless killing of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins—also caught on surveillance tape in the convenience store, just 13 days after King’s assault) to demonstrate with “peace” placards in an attempt heal longstanding wounds. Throughout these sequences, soprano Miriam Gauci delivers a poignant and moving rendition of “Ebben? Ne Andro Lontana” from Alfredo Catatani’s opera, La Wally, providing a musical dose of peace via art. Without doubt, no one involved in the film’s events had ever heard this aria (on all sides of the racial divide). But if more of them would, perhaps we could all get along, spending more of our days in search of beauty instead of power over others.

With incidents of police brutality still occurring in the present day, King’s hope (just like his namesake, Dr. Martin Luther) seems as far off as ever.

If only we could just get along. JWR

Swim Team
Lara Stolman
90 mins, 2017
Four and one half stars

You never give up

Stolman has obviously earned the respect and trust of many members/families of New Jersey’s Hammerhead swim team in this uplifting documentary of those living with Autism. The four principals—all boys, one, Kelvin also coping with Tourette syndrome—have enormous challenges in their day-to-day lives as they struggle to communicate, keep up in a school system that favours “normal” students and find some meaning in life.

Led by a father of “Mikey” (an autistic child), the team is chronicled doing what they do best: swimming and winning meet after meet all the way to the 2014 USA Special Olympics. The most fascinating/important realization stems from the fact that when these young people with severe disabilities hit the water, they can far outperform most of their colleagues who have a comparatively “easy existence.

Mark Suzzo’s thoughtful score reinforces the aspirations of the swimmers, frustrations—at times—of their families and magnificent feelings of joy and accomplishment, whether coming first, being disqualified or leading others into the realm of competition that permeates every facet of life.

While those highlighted give hope and joy to themselves and their families, it must be recalled that far too many of the “different” amongst us are shunned and ignored by those who ought to know better.

Do see this film then pass it along to someone in your circle who may not realize how judgemental they are. JWR

Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992
John Ridley
144 mins, 2017
Four stars

Same hit, different pile

As opposed to the LA 92 above, Ridley attempts to put some backstory to the events leading up to Rodney King’s brutal beating (some of the clips, for obvious reasons being the same).

Like many world events, its extra-long runtime fills in a few factual events, but cannot change the outcome in 1992 anymore than it will assuage the continuing unrest today.

Nuff said. JWR

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