new doc reminds us that latasha harlins’ life mattered

May 29, 2019
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Latasha Harlins was 15 years old when Korean store owner, Soon Ja Du, shot her in the back of the head. This was just 13 days after Rodney King was brutalized by police 30-some miles away. After mistaking Harlins’ intention to purchase a bottle of orange juice as stealing, a brief, tense exchange ended in the child’s murder.

And, as is with so many cases involving the killing of a Black person, Du was never held accountable for taking a life that mattered and was fined $500 with five years of probation and 400 hours of community service. Publicly, yes, there was outrage over Harlins’ murder, and some even attribute it as one of the catalysts for the 1992 Los Angeles riots. But in the media and even now, historically so much of the outcry over Latasha’s death and Du’s “justice” were eclipsed by the King beating.

A Love Song For Latasha is the experimental short documentary told in dreamlike fashion, excavating an intimate portrait of who Harlins was, as shared by her cousin and best friend. Aimed at filling in the historical gaps and nuance of Latasha’s life leading up to her untimely murder, director/cinematographer/editor/producer Sophia Nahli Allison uses the power of memories to reaffirm Latasha’s existence and her worth. By bringing her story back into the light, Allison and Harlins’ friends and family hope to remind the world that she was an individual and not “a young Black girl who was worth a dollar and 79 cents.”

A Love Song For Latasha (trailer) from Sophia Nahli Allison on Vimeo.

A Love Song For Latasha is currently on the festival circuit, premiering at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. The documentary is scheduled to be screened at the Sheffield Doc Festival in the UK and at AFI DOCS this June. Click here for more information about screenings.