Twenty-five years after the verdict in the Rodney King trial sparked several days of protests, violence and looting in Los Angeles, new feature documentary LA 92 immerses viewers in that tumultuous period. Told entirely through stunning and rarely seen archival footage, the film captures the shock, disappointment and fury felt by many following the outcomes of the highly publicised trials.
With LA 92 screening this weekend at London's ICA and Stratford East Picturehouse, plus a special event with Simon Chinn and David Lammy on Monday 8 May at Bertha DocHouse, here's our rundown of the essential docs that have captured the spirit - and tragic bloodshed - of the ongoing Civil Rights Movement.
Produced by Oscar winner Simon Chinn (Man on Wire) and Emmy winner Jonathan Chinn (American High) and directed by Oscar winners Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin (Undefeated), LA 92 looks at the events of 1992 from a multitude of vantage points, bringing a fresh perspective to a pivotal moment that reverberates to this day.
Using the beating of Rodney King and subsequent 1992 LA riots as crucial context, Ezra Edelman's Oscar-winning O.J.: Made in America (out now on DVD and Blu-ray) uses its seven-hour runtime to delve into one of the most pivotal court cases in American history. Simpson's hesitance to engage with his African-American identity - until it is seen as an advantage at a time of immense social unrest - is one of myriad strands brought together in this masterful documentary.
Master documentarian Stanley Nelson goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure trove of rare archival footage with the voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it. Featuring Kathleen Cleaver, Jamal Joseph, and many others, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (out now on DVD) is an essential history and a vibrant chronicle of this pivotal movement that birthed a new culture in America.
The Black Power Mixtape tells the story of the Black Power Movement through the eyes of Swedish journalists. Drawn to America in the late 1960s by stories of revolution and urban unrest, the journalists recorded interviews with activists like Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Steale, Angela Davis and Eldridge Cleaver. Thirty years later, this interview footage was found in the basement of Swedish Television and was brought to life by Director Göran Olsson and co-producer Danny Glover.
freedom on my mind
An absorbing Oscar-nominated documentary about civil rights workers' efforts in Mississippi from 1961 to 1964 to register African-American voters and raise awareness of the need for racial equality. The first black farmer who tried to register was fatally shot by a Mississippi state lawmaker. By 1990, Mississippi had more elected black officials than any other state. The film features interviews and rare archival footage set against a soundtrack of blues and gospel songs. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival.
James Earl Jones narrates this fascinating and moving documentary about the life of the assassinated black leader through various sources, including speeches, newsreels, film clips and new footage provided by his friends and acquaintances.
KING: A FILMED RECORD...MONTGOMERY TO MEMPHIS
Constructed from a wealth of archival footage, King is a monumental documentary that follows Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from 1955 to 1968, in his rise from regional activist to world-renowned leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Rare footage of King's speeches, protests, and arrests are interspersed with scenes of other high-profile supporters and opponents of the cause, punctuated by heartfelt testimonials by some of Hollywood's biggest stars.
Daniel Lindsay and T. J. Martin's LA 92 is released in UK cinemas on 21 April.