The Frame

Movies, music, TV, arts and entertainment, straight from Southern California. Hosted by John Horn

John Ridley's documentary about the LA Riots is meant to 'break hearts and lift spirits'

by John Horn and Monica Bushman | The Frame

A building is burning on a street near the intersection of Western Avenue on April 30, 1992, during the LA Riots. Gary Leonard/LAPL

John Ridley has built his career writing socio-political, issue-oriented stories for film and television.

The writer/director won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for "12 Years a Slave." His miniseries "Guerilla," about racial tensions in 1970s London, is airing on Showtime right now and his Emmy-winning ABC drama "American Crime" is currently in its third season.

Now Ridley has made his first documentary— "Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992"— to mark the 25-year anniversary of the 1992 L.A. Riots. It opens in select theaters this Friday, and on April 28 a shorter version of the film will air on ABC.

John Ridley's attempts to bring the story of the L.A. Riots to the screen actually began 10 years ago, when Spike Lee came to him with an idea to make a narrative feature.

Ridley says that for a number of reasons, that film still hasn't been made, so when ABC News approached him about making a documentary, he jumped at the chance.

Ridley spoke about "Let It Fall" with The Frame host John Horn.

Interview highlights:

Why a narrative feature film on the L.A. Riots has been so difficult to get made

All of the elements that were really essential, in my opinion, to telling this story— the fact that it covered many communities, the fact that there was no one person who was a complete protagonist or a complete antagonist... and that it was not a necessarily happy ending, but the scope and scale of it begat a particular price point. All of those things, when you sit down with the individuals who have the decision-making power, it's not easy to look at that and go Yeah, okay, that's a movie that we want to make. And as someone who's been working for a long time now, I get that. I understand it. I'm certainly disappointed by it, and still would love the opportunity to tell that story.

On the impact he hopes "Let It Fall" has on viewers

Among the many things that we hoped to accomplish with this documentary was to both break hearts and lift spirits. And there are any number of individuals in this story— you know, when systems failed, when organizations that were meant to help or protect were not there, there were people as individuals who made very unfortunate choices, but also extraordinary, extraordinary choices to go out and to help individuals who may not look exactly like them, but said Look, I see myself in that individual, I need to do something.

On how he went about selecting the voices to include in the documentary

One of the things that was very important is that for almost every individual represented in this documentary, almost every one of them at some moment can say, 'and then I did this...' These stories are very, very personal. These are not individuals with an intellectual remove, recounting events. Part of the way that we put this story together is that at the beginning there are a lot of individuals who are talking, they are remembering Los Angeles when they were growing up, or why they came to L.A., or why they chose a particular profession, and seemingly they're just individuals talking. Just talking. But what we hope to do is that within that, they go from a random group of people talking about L.A. or California or 1982 or 1992 to people who very specifically have an incredibly sharp recollection about a moment that maybe the rest of us remember, but I don't think remember with an emotionality that is so immediate.

To hear the full interview with John Ridley, click the blue player above.

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