A Love Song for Latasha is a documentary film directed by Sophia Nahli Allison and is about the life of a 15-year-old African-American girl called Latasha Harlins living in Los Angeles, who was murdered by Korean-American store owner and clerk Soon Ja Du over a $1.79 bottle of orange juice. The teen was shot on the back of her head, after which Ja Du tried to frame Latasha for robbing the store. The event took place on the morning of March 16, 1991. The most heart-wrenching part of the incident was that Latasha was carrying a $2 bill in her hand, which was meant for the bottle of juice.
What was more tragic, however, was the trial. Eight months after the tragedy, the court convicted Soon Ja Du for voluntary manslaughter, and the jury recommended a 16-year prison sentence. However, trial judge Joyce Karlin did not accept the sentencing, and instead sentenced her to five years of probation, 400 hours of community service and a $500 fine. Let’s make this clear, Soon Ja Du did not spend a minute in prison for murdering a 15-year-old child.
Following her death, the 1992 Los Angeles riots took place, and the tragedy served as a trigger. According to the Mayor’s office, most of the businesses vandalised were Korean-owned. Du’s store, on the other hand, was looted and burned down. It never reopened.
I talked about the history first because it is important to note how, even in 2020, African-Americans are treated poorly. Let’s not forget George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and an unending list of Black (unarmed) people to have been subjected to unfair treatment at the hands of others.
A Love Song for Latasha is truly a love song for the teen. It’s a celebration and a means of remembering a life that was lost too soon. The documentary is shot in a very dreamlike way, and it’s a calm and serene look at Latasha’s life which extends beyond her death. It showcases how she was as a person with the help of her cousin Shinese Harlins and her childhood best friend Tybie O’Bard. She was more than just another death – she had dreams and ambitions and there was more to her than people know.
The documentary is 19 minutes long but portrays all that it has to in that short time. There’s a monologue by Tybie where she remembers the morning of the incident, and it’s truly haunting. The monologue goes along with animation, and the lack of a background score makes it all the more so. A Love Song for Latasha features a very scarce amount of background scores and is mixed with old and new footage. The newly shot clips are wonderful and dreamy. It goes very well with the narration that takes place in the background and provides a sense of calm melancholy.
A Love Song for Latasha ends with a simple white-on-black text that informs the viewers about what happened and then talks about how Latasha’s aunt founded The Latasha Harlins Justice Committee to fight for justice and to remember her niece.
Summing up: A Love Song for Latasha
In the wake of growing violence and a horrible pandemic, it is important to remember the people whom society has failed. A Love Song for Latasha, in a very dream-like and serene manner, talks about all that was good and beautiful about Latasha Harlins, and how Black people were (and still are) subjected to inhuman treatment at the hands of others. At 19 minutes, this documentary will remind you to be kinder and gentler in a world which only knows how to be at war.
A Love Song for Latasha is streaming on Netflix.
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