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Ktown92 is an interactive documentary for the web  that explores the 1992 Los Angeles Riots through the lens of the greater Koreatown community.  We are currently in pre-production and looking for stories from a diverse cross-section of Angelenos that span different generations, communities, and languages.

Do you have a story you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear from you. Please fill out the survey  and share with others who may want to contribute.

About

Most of the country experienced the LA Riots — also known as the Rodney King Riots, the LA rebellion, civil unrest, Sa-i-gu — through an endless loop of chaos on the nightly news: protesters, burning buildings, looters, mob violence, and armed store owners firing into crowds on the street and from rooftops.

Beamed internationally, the news footage kept to a simple script: African Americans fueled a level of violence that was too dangerous for police intervention. TV news focused almost exclusively on blacks and latinos plundering through busted up shops in a party-like atmosphere. Korean immigrants were presented as alien aggressors with guns and long rifles who put their stores ahead of people’s lives. And though there were white looters too, the coverage focused on the near-fatal beating of Reginald Denny, who was pulled from his truck at the intersection of Florence and Normandie. Media representation of the “first multicultural riots” locked each group within its designated social construct.

Although looting and fires broke out from Hollywood to as far south as Long Beach, this project will focus on one neighborhood that often gets overlooked: Koreatown. Centrally-located a few miles west of downtown Los Angeles, Koreatown is a place full of contradictions — simultaneously designated a high-poverty “Promise Zone” by President Obama yet also touted in a New York Times 2016 feature as a hotspot for hipsters. With a population of around 250,000, most of its residents aren’t even Korean, but immigrants from Central America, Mexico, Bangladesh, and transplants from all over the U.S. in search of affordable rents. But how many of Koreatown’s current residents know what happened here in April 1992? How far has the neighborhood, the city, and the country come since the biggest civil unrest in American history? More importantly, what does it tell us about our future as a multiethnic society that is increasingly informed by the immigrant experience?

Who We Are

We are a team of award-winning documentary filmmakers from Los Angeles committed to community-based filmmaking. Our team members include Korean American, African American, Latinos, Muslim Arab-Americans. Some of us are LA natives, others are transplants. Some of us are immigrants, others native-born. We speak English, Spanish, Korean and Arabic — reflecting Koreatown and the neighborhoods around it.

Project Director:

Grace Lee directed the Peabody award-winning documentary American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, which The Hollywood Reporter called ”an entertainingly revealing portrait of the power of a single individual to effect change.” The film premiered at the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival where it won its first of six festival audience awards before its broadcast on the PBS series POV. Her previous documentary The Grace Lee Project won multiple awards, broadcast on Sundance Channel and was called “ridiculously entertaining” by New York Magazine and “a funny but complex meditation on identity and cultural expectation,” by Variety. She produced and directed two documentaries for PBS: the Emmy-nominated Makers: Women in Politics (2014) and Off the Menu: Asian America (2015). Lee received her MFA in Film Directing from UCLA Film School where her short film BARRIER DEVICE won a Student Academy Award. She was a 2016 Women at Sundance Fellow and a member of the Directors Guild of America.

Grace Lee statement:

As a Korean American and as a current resident of Koreatown, I’m acutely aware of how the 1992 LA riots profoundly shaped my understanding of race in America, and my place in it. As Project Director, my goal is to create a robust conversation around topics the Asian American community rarely talks about: race relations, migration stories, generational trauma and more. I’ve met many young Korean Americans, who only learned about the riots in school, despite their own family members living through it. In many ways, this dynamic also plays out among Latinos and other international diaspora. This project will allow participants to reflect on an event that many in the immigrant generation would rather disappear. It will explore how 1992 pushed the community to reconsider its own place in the larger society, and provide a path for understanding how all communities engage with issues of race, identity, and societal change moving forward.

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