A Love Song for Latasha
Dir: Sophia Nahli Allison
Who was Latasha?
Latasha Harlins was an African-American teenager growing up in Los Angeles.
What happened to her?
When buying orange juice in a small store, the owner pulled a gun on her thinking she was shoplifting and killed her. It’s a really tragic and complex story, I don’t think I’d heard about it before, though apparently, the tragedy is well known in America.
When did this happen?
This is more than 30 years ago in 1991, but it was notable news at the time and one of the things that fuelled the L.A. riots of 1992.
Why is this a nice tribute to her?
It focuses on her, as told by those who knew her well. It doesn’t give almost any time or attention to her killer, it’s not overly focused on trying to expound the big racial issues, nor does it dwell on the aftermath. Instead, this is about who she was and who she had the potential to be, told by people who knew and loved her, which I think is a perspective that would be easy to lose in tragic situations like this. News reports would have easily shifted to covering the riots, but the details of Latasha’s story as told by her friends are important to hear.
How is it edited?
Sadly this is my one criticism of the film. The film makes interesting use of what looks like archive footage, family movies and photos, new footage in an almost re-enactment role, and animation, some of which is abstract, particularly so at certain points. I understand what the filmmakers are going for and why they choose to make the visuals more abstract when talking about certain parts of the story, but it comes close to being a distraction from, rather than an enhancement to what’s being said. It’s bold and memorable, but I was left feeling a little discombobulated by the rapid mix of styles and images, though it definitely had an impact.
Where can I watch this?
The film is available to stream on Netflix. I’d also recommend, if you’re so inclined and able to handle it, reading up about the case and details of it as there are many interesting details that the film doesn’t really go into or raise at all. It’s a case that could be the subject of a feature-length documentary, I would think it probably already is though I’ve not seen it.