Directed by #SophiaNahliAllison
Film Review by Amber Jackson
A Love Song for Latasha is an experimental short documentary new to Netflix concerning the murder of Latasha Harlins. Latasha was a fifteen-year-old girl who was shot in a local shop over a $1.79 carton of orange juice in 1991. The event shocked local residents in Los Angeles and prompted the 1992 LA riots, but unfortunately the incident was overlooked by the majority at the time. Sophia Nahli Allison has directed this nineteen-minute film with those that were close to Latasha to create a lasting tribute for her.
The film certainly does well to memorialise Latasha in the way that she should have been remembered. We hear personal accounts from best friend Tybie O'Bard and cousin Shinese Harlins (in the film as themselves) talking about Latasha’s potential and how all the promise that she had was ripped away. Hearing about what she could have been highlights how important it is to keep her memory alive. It is this poignancy of memory that makes this film great; Latasha is celebrated by those who knew her as kind and clever and this tribute is now available for a global audience to honour Latasha’s memory.
Each scene certainly makes it feel like more of an intimate watch. Hard-hitting memories of the event shared by Tybie and Shinese, along with shots of teenage girls staring at the camera makes it intrusive for the audience. Most powerfully, we are asked to listen and remember. Certain shots played backwards is jarring and gives the impression that the film is trying to go back in time and recreate what happened so that the audience can bear witness. The animations and digital drawings edited amongst this makes the retelling more chilling as the audience cannot see the reality of the incident. This excellent film editing was much more effective than the use of acting and the film is turned into a greater tribute for Latasha.
In the UK, we have not heard much about Latasha’s story when we should have. This documentary uses a focus on personal narrative for impact; those in the film talk about who she was as an individual, which immortalises her. It also uses these words to comment on the social issue of why murders like Latasha’s have become acceptable within society and have not received the justice and social awareness that they deserve.
Latasha’s death was one of the catalysts for the 1992 LA riots, ultimately because no justice was served. The film informs us at the end that shop owner Soon Ja Du did not go to prison for fatally shooting Latasha, despite acting intentionally. What is poignant about this documentary coming to Netflix at this time is that we are still seeing situations like this replicated in the US, like Breonna Taylor’s murderers not being charged. A film like this is incredibly important in spreading awareness and bringing people together not only to remember, but to continue to protest.
A Love Song for Latasha is a beautiful memorial for Latasha Harlins. It is also a reminder and a message to continue to fight injustice in the twenty-first-century. Tybie and Shinese are setting up The Latasha Harlins Justice Committee to remind others that, despite Latasha’s story being overshadowed in the media at the time, the people of LA remember what happened and will continue to spread her story.
This documentary short is on Netflix UK now and is a must-watch.