Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.


  • L.A. Is Burning: Five Reports from a Divided City
  • Rating: *****
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $99.95
  • Date: Copyright 1993. Released 1993.
  • Descriptors: Los Angeles (Calif.) - Race relations. Riots - Los Angeles (Calif.). Protests, demonstrations, etc. - Los Angeles (Calif.) . Race relations.
  • Production Information: Live action. Color, b&w. Closed captioned. 87 min.
  • Production Company: Documentary Consortium
  • Available from: PBS Video 1320 Braddock Pl. Alexandria, VA 22314-1698 (703)739-5380
  • ISBN: ISBN 0-7936-0961-5.
  • Cataloging: 303.623'09"794 Riots - California - Los Angeles||Los Angeles (Calif.) - Race relations||Documentary films
  • Print Entry #: 5:58
  • Reviewer: Paula C. Murphy

    This live-action program from an April 1993 Frontline broadcast is an in-depth view of the April 1992 Los Angeles riots, presented by five representatives of the different cultures involved in the conflict. These reporters include John Edgar Wideman, an African-American novelist and professor of English literature at the University of Massachusetts; Susan Anderson, an African-American writer, media consultant, and community activist in Los Angeles; Edward Chang, a Korean professor of ethnic studies at the University of California at Riverside; Ruben Martinez, a Latino journalist and author; and Tim Rutten, a white columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

    These five interview different community members of Los Angeles and give their views on the events that led to the multicultural riot and the subsequent fearful response of the city in the year that followed. Their presentation includes many news clips, some of which are violent, that provide the viewer with a true sense of not only the history of the upheaval, but also the anger and frustration that created the emotional response of that moment. This comprehensive visual essay also includes comments and opinions from such varied sources as officials of the local government to the man on the street. It provokes discussion and an unsettling feeling that what happened in Los Angeles is only a small reflection of the larger problems that every city in the United States is facing today.

    The technical aspects are excellent. Because it was professionally done for Frontline, its visual and sound characteristics are of the highest quality. The editing is outstanding, with the images chosen to illustrate or enhance the voice-over comments carefully placed and presented. The five reporters are articulate, highly believable, and likeable individuals who make their presentations very credible. Finally, the program structure as a whole is well thought out and goes far beyond ordinary news shows.

    L. A. Is Burning: Five Reports from a Divided City should be in every library collection serving high school to adult audiences. It is an excellent program for users interested in US history, community studies, sociology, law, human relations, current events, multicultural studies, and, because of the strength of its presentation, journalism. Because it is thought provoking, public libraries will find it great for programming with a discussion forum following. The college and university researcher will find the program's perspective from a year later and its many news clips valuable in studying what happened during the riots. School libraries will find this useful for class discussions, but should be aware that, although much of the violent footage was shown on television news, it still may be difficult for younger audiences to view. Due to the importance of the information it presents and the outstanding way it is presented, this video should be in every library collection serving audiences that have the maturity to understand it.

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