In order to get a film, a documentary no less, completed, screened in multiple cities, showing on the National Geographic channel and premiering at the Tribeca Film Fest, you have to be dogmatic.  That dogmatism, with the documentary of LA 92, came in the form of a pair of directors, TJ Martin and Dan Lindsay.  The same unyielding quality in the pair scored them an Oscar just a couple years earlier. 

TJ Martin, co- director LA 92

As co-directors, Martin and Lindsay made the feature documentary Undefeated, which chronicles the football team of Manassas High School in Memphis, Tennessee. The film focuses on the lives of several of the players and their coach, Bill Courtney, over the course of a single season.

Dan Lindsay, co- director LA 92

Undefeated premiered at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival and was purchased by The Weinstein Company for North American distribution just hours after the first screening. Released to near universal acclaim, the film went on to win the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary in 2012.

Working officially as the directing duo Martin + Lindsay, Martin and Lindsay have continued their work across various platforms including short films, television, and commercial work.

In 2007 in Los Angeles, Martin met future directing partner Daniel Lindsay, when they collaborated on the feature documentary Last Cup: Road to the World Series of Beer Pong, directed by Lindsay and edited by Martin.

10 years later, they have created what could be another Oscar contender with LA 92.  The execution and partnership, outwardly seamless.  

Their effortless partnership, with LA 92, has taken a tragic piece of American history and made it into a captivating fluid 2-hour like song.  The documentary was scored with classical and melancholy opera melodies to reflect and parallel the beauty yet contrasting suffering that continues to haunt and is threaded through America.  

The film removed talking heads, and subjective interviews, and told the story through archives while using music as the audio backdrop instead of voiceovers.  The stark contrast of mediated archives paired with universal music themes allowed for cultural and emotional unification, if only for a moment, like only song can do.  

Rioters overturn a parking attendant booth at the LAPD Parker Center in downtown Los Angeles during the 1992 riots that swept the city for days after three of four police officers accused of the 1991 beating of Rodney King were cleared of all charges. The fourth officer was charged with use of excessive force. (Photo by Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images)

Corbis via Getty Images

Without voices and interviews traditionally found in documentaries, the directors felt audiences would be able to experience and connect to these historical moments without subjective and filtered deconstruction. The most provocative moment as it relates to the doc, being the George Holliday videotape of the Rodney King beating itself, giving birth to citizen journalism, more common today than in 1992.   

The directors felt it apropos to allow that liberating yet awakening video and brutal moment to drive the film and allow for journalism, archives and revealing footage to tell the story of the Rodney King riots in LA from 25 years ago.  

What the filmmakers hope was this very lens would evoke empathy and create a visceral experience over deconstructed intellectual journalism. 

Rather than trailing subjects, producing interviews, using voice overs and collecting clips, Martin and Lindsay for nearly a year, went back in time, and instead followed history and wrote a symphonic and tragic documentary, we now know and remember as LA 92.

Audiences will remember where they were and how they felt.  But what LA 92 does is places local and nationally historical context leading up to 1992. That context a combination of racial profiling, injustice, hypocritical leaders, local tragedies and impoverished communities.  

We are reminded of Rodney King's youth and his opposition to wanting to wear this crown.  We observe the youth and reaction of disbelief of former president then senator, Bill Clinton.  We witness a relentless and ever passionate US Congresswoman, Maxine Waters. And our skin crawls at the presidential address during LA's state of emergency.  Coincidentally, there is even an appearance made by a Pepsi drink just before the verdicts are read. 

LA 92 is Produced by Lightbox’s two-time Academy Award winner Simon Chinn (“Man on Wire”) and Emmy winner Jonathan Chinn (“American High”).   

Simon Chinn, left, and Jonathan Chinn producers of LA 92.

Race relations is America’s Achilles heel,” said Lightbox producers Jonathan Chinn and Simon Chinn. “The production of this film might mark the 25th anniversary of this seminal uprising, but these kind of events still recur, and we are still dealing with their root causes. Our goal with LA 92 is to reframe the story of this tragedy for a modern audience, and we hope it will encourage reflection and debate as we wrestle with these very real conflicts that continue to plague America’s cities.

Understanding the depths and layers that could be peeled back if given a lifetime, what LA 92 does best in this format is remind audiences of the historical events while imploring one to realize its poignant presence. In telling the story in this format, quieted voices are once again elevated to provoke continued dialogue and action.  

Lindsay remembers vividly and repeatedly through the filmmaking and post production creative process, the echoing words of Rodney King, "We are all stuck here."  King who is no longer stuck here, arguably because he himself was haunted by the events brought on by that traffic stop, reminds us through the LA 92 film, that we better make the most of being stuck here.  

In remembering King's life and purpose and the riot events, LA 92, becomes another piece of well executed art and song created to keep us woke.  

LA 92 makes its television broadcast debut on National Geographic on Sunday, April 30 at 9/8c and will also air globally in 171 countries and 45 languages. 

 

LA 92 premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, April 21. Following the premiere at Tribeca, the film completed a multi-city screening tour including Baltimore, Charlotte, St. Louis, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta. Additionally, a limited theatrical release in NYC and LA begins April 28.

 

Furthering the national conversation, National Geographic has also partnered with Picture Motion to provide free screenings of the film to colleges and universities nationwide and developed a robust free discussion guide to accompany the film. For more information, visit: natgeotvpressroom.com 

 

A Korean store owner is comforted by a local resident after she returned to find her place of business looted and burned in south-central Los Angeles, April 30, 1992, during day two of the Los Angeles riots. (Photo by Steve Grayson/WireImage)

2002 Wireimage