“Uprising: Hip Hop and The L.A. Riots” premiered at SXSW on Wednesday night. The VH1 documentary examines the relationship between what was happening on the streets before the 1992 uprising and the rage expressed in hip-hop music.
The film, directed by Mark Ford, includes a well researched and compelling mix of archival footage from both local television news camera and video shot by community members on the ground—a lot of which has has never been broadcasted before. Interweaved throughout the film are interviews with well known figures and hip hop artists including: Rodney King, Arsenio Hall, John Singleton, Too Short, KRS-One, Nas and Sir Jinx. Current LAPD Chief Charlie Beck was also interviewed along with former chiefs Bernard Parks and William Bratton. (There were not very many women included in the film.)
The film focuses on the relationship with the violence happening on the streets and the frustrations expressed in hip-hop and as a result voices from Latinos and Korean weren’t really part of the narrative. Out of what felt like a dozen talking head interviews only one was Korean and his segment was brief and towards the end of the film.
The film however did include a sequence that presented Koreans protecting their businesses in a gun shootout. Following the shooting sequence we hear a Korean man who owns a gun shop say business was good for him during the riots.
“You just showed Koreans with guns,” said a visibly upset David Kim during a Q&A session with the director after the screening. Kim is the co-Director of the Korean American Film Festival New York.
“I can’t believe this is going to air on VH1 and that you’re going to put the Korean perspective in that kind of light. You’re putting a freaking target on the Korean community—I’m really fucking upset,” Kim went on to tell the director in front of the audience.
Kim stood in front of the microphone for close to 3-minutes and went on to tell the director about other documentaries about the L.A. riots from a Korean-American perspective like Dai Sil Kim-Gibson’s films “Sai-I-Gu” and “Wet Sand.”
“The point of view of this film is to tell the point of view of hip hop and how the hip hop community and the people that believed in that film reacted,” director Mark Ford told Kim.
The screening was one of the latest screenings at SXSW and ended around 11:10pm and there where audience members that didn’t know each other still discussing the film at 11:30pm and when they were pushed out of the auditorium they moved their discussions outside. Something I haven’t seen at any of the other films or panels I’ve been to this year at SXSW.
The film is undoubtedly a conversation starter. You can catch “Uprising: Hip Hop & The LA Riots” on VH1 on May 1, 2012, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.