Maxine Waters is an OG. The U.S. Representative for California’s 43rd congressional district has been speaking out against unjust acts (and citizens) way before the social media platforms of today, that have expanded awareness of the congresswoman, existed. A new National Geographic documentary makes that clear in just a few pivotal scenes.

More on Waters later, but the motion picture she cameos in, LA 92, uses her history in a masterful way that solidifies the film’s important, and timely, messages.

Maxine Waters | National Geographic
Maxine Waters | National Geographic

Surprisingly, LA 92 does not begin in 1992. The film kicks off in 1965. Scenes of black people being beaten and abused are flashed across the screen, alongside news reports from that time. Fast forward over two decades later in 1991, and we see footage of that same exact cruelty happening to a black man at the hands of several police officers. The man’s name was Rodney King.

LA 92 takes viewers from the night of Rodney King’s disturbing beating from Los Angeles police officers, to their unbelievable trial (if you’re not old enough to remember it, get ready to experience some complete BS), and everything in-between (all of which is crucial to the story). But the focus of the film really lies in the aftermath (or more appropriately, effect) of the nonsensical verdict the police officers that thrashed King received. The causatum became known as the Los Angeles Riots of 1992.

You quickly realize that in the midst of all the terrible mayhem, unfair verdicts, and loss that many of the residents of Los Angeles experienced during the riots, absolutely nobody won anything. But that’s not the only lesson LA 92 teaches.

Rodney King | National Geographic
Rodney King | National Geographic

The film plays with time in the first frame. It pulls the trick again in an impactful way during the last few minutes, sending the sad message, “Look how far we have not come.” Maxine Waters was the perfect figure to feature from that historical time, because she is living evidence of that disheartening theme.

It’s unbelievable to think that 25 years ago, Maxine Waters, who was fighting against issues concerning race and questionable leaders, is doing the same thing (just as audaciously) today. What has changed in all the time that has passed? Apparently, not much, as LA 92 boldly states.

From beginning to end, LA 92 wakes you up and forces you to pay attention. It’s a lesson that has been taught too many times already—and one that the film makes clear should not have to be taught again.

LA 92 (2017)
Directors Dan Lindsay & TJ Martin
Rating R