Grace Lee’s K-TOWN ’92, an interactive web documentary, was supported by California Humanities through the California Documentary Project Production Grant in 2017.
You can watch a clip of the interactive online documentary here until April 28, 2018: http://www.pbs.org/video/k-town-92-reporters-skhfmp/
Read an excerpt from Nina F. Ichikawa‘s Interview with Grace Lee “Grace Lee’s ‘K-TOWN ’92” Tells A Different Story of the LA Riots” for Documentary Magazine and CAAM (Center for Asian American Media). Access the full article here.
Nina F Ichikawa:
Filmmaker Grace Lee uses the medium of documentary to paint a picture of Asian American lives with insight and honesty. Her films include The Grace Lee Project, American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs and Off the Menu: Asian America.
Her newest project, K-TOWN ’92, is an interactive documentary of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. It comes 25 years after Los Angeles erupted in flames and anger after Los Angeles police officers were acquitted of savagely beating motorist Rodney King — the videotape of which was viewed around the world as evidence of a long history in Los Angeles of police brutality against African Americans. The project, which launches April 27, includes several dozen interviews with a diverse cross-section of people who lived through the upheaval. On April 29, a short documentary called K-TOWN ’92 Reporters directed by Lee about four Los Angeles Times’ staffers who covered the riots will premiere online on PBS’ World Channel.
The uprising was pivotal across many axes. It exacerbated the historic disinvestment in low-income communities of color, giving banks, grocery stores and other businesses further reason to ignore neighborhoods like South Central and Koreatown. It showed the TV-watching public an endless loop of police violence against ordinary citizens, arousing a popular anger that echoed the response to the Vietnam War. It laid bare the corruption and cover-ups in a major urban police department.
To Lee, the days of unrest also brought Korean America to mainstream consciousness like nothing before it. It was a warped, racist, myopic gaze, but it got airtime nonetheless. Through the K-TOWN ‘92 project, Lee and her team insert new voices, new images and new ideas onto the “show” that the LA Riots became. I had the chance to speak to her by phone recently as she packed to return home to LA from the Bay Area.
What is an interactive documentary? Why this format?
There are many definitions of an interactive documentary. Everything exists on the website, and you come and have an experience as a user. It’s almost in some ways like a deconstructed documentary. Given limited time and resources, the idea is to have a different experience of this time period: the 25th anniversary of the LA Riots through the lens of Koreatown and the greater Koreatown neighborhood. I also wanted to provide a diverse cross-section of Angelenos’ stories, stories that I haven’t really heard before. Looking back on that civil unrest, they are lacking in the narrative.
[K-TOWN ‘92] is not meant to be comprehensive. It’s really meant for the person who comes to the website to discover and find on their own the stories they’re interested in, juxtaposed with media news coverage at that time and archival material from Visual Communications, shot by independent documentary filmmakers back then. So you have several different types of footage you can explore on this site. Having these different options to look at different perspectives gives you an opportunity to explore what that journey might be. For example, you can choose to just look at 2017 interviews that I’ve shot, or the news footage, or interviews shot in 1992 by independent filmmakers. But you can only choose that after you’ve entered this experience and had different types of footage offered up to you.
It forces you to choose what you’re looking at and be conscious of what you’re choosing.
Access the full article here.
CAAM is a funder of the K-TOWN ‘92 interactive web documentary, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Find out more about the project online, on Facebook and Instagram. Join World Channel for a FB Live stream event with director Grace Lee, World Channel Executive Director Chris Hastings, and another special guest on April 29 at 1pm ET/10am PT on World Channel’s Facebook. Stream K-TOWN ’92 Reporters starting April 29 on World Channel.
This interview is cross-published at Documentary Magazine, and has been edited for length and clarity.
Nina F. Ichikawa is the Policy Director at the Berkeley Food Institute, and has written on Asian American life for Rafu Shimpo, the International Examiner, Al-Jazeera America, and NBC Asian America. She was the founding food and agriculture editor of Hyphen magazine.