Transcript for Director John Ridley talks his new documentary 'Let It Fall'
Hi everybody I'm Peter Travers welcome to popcorn where we tell you things that are happening at the movies and there's an exciting thing happening. My guest John Read these documentary his first called let it fall about the LA uprising between 1982. And 1990 to the uprising itself. Is ninety too so we're celebrating. This celebrating I don't know if it's celebrating the right word. But would dealing with 25 years after this yes slowed John why. Now besides the 25. What made you say I'm going to make my day be used as a documentarian. With this now. Some more than anything it was little serendipity is how things work and how things come together. Was more than ten years ago me about twelve years ago. I had the opportunity of work with by clear and most likely obviously as a filmmaker. Such an influence myself and so many other people any approached me about doing. The story of the LA opera's most people knows the Rodney King why. But really focused on. That night 25 years ago what happened. How the uprising began moments after the verdict. And obviously did that part of the story loans and powerful potent and through a lot of things that people assume they remember. Now the don't genuinely remember. But as it was doing research for this story over a ten year period. I really came to realize that there with so much more. To the uprising than. Just that moment when he five years ago or even a year earlier when I'm thinking was assaulted by the police officers the really was this. Narrative context at least going back ten years in argument to make you go back much further you could yes from the end of the so called there in the LAPD. Method of subduing suspects. When they would choke the suspects now. Who disproportionate number of African American black Americans dying from Matt. The introduction of the PR Tony for the middle but time was then used in assaulting Rodney King just on and on and on these these obvious. We used to it while it's in the mood at this connection a -- we're in LA now we realize this chokehold is probably gonna get us into more trouble and then they come off. What the medal but which is something we just. The wave that it was the way that it should have been used in certain way that it was used on that night another night as well and assaulting Rodney King you know if you just put an officer's hands and beat them written of course it's a deadly weapon but it was. More about looking at these transitions these interconnected moments. That at that time. From the PO Tony four to what happened with harsher on the in the Olympics. And how that changed the view of the city for people outside of Los Angeles people in the city all of those things are connected that's what we want to tell not just the story. If something happened one night one person infected one neighborhood. But a large Wednesday of this city the moments in history that broadest do you the oil price well. You did it I mean. We should do a little context of this first ABC news was involved with you getting this done in April. Right when the actual time was had 25 years the reaction to the verdict the universe right and that was may be what two hours long that. Version would have been it was initially approached us very excited about doing it did know that had been working featured all these years but they offered as had bought. They very graciously. Offered an hour of broadcast television let's 42 minutes and that's valuable real statement to try to take a story. That is this image as the smoke breath and depth and within 42 minutes on the line now. So we approached them we ask if we could possibly two hours on broadcast and gas. And then we can work so we think that this is. The storied news to reveal itself. Rather than monstrous thing it should be two hours or so and most graciously with a look do when you fuels correct. If you get a film together it holds up we that you release. As long as at some point you need something. The fill up that. Two hours and television. But we did we'd created the film we're able to do weigh in slightly edited version for television. But the version now that's back in theaters and you can feel television Netflix but the two aren't when it footman in the government. That's it so. You do you have this Friday it opening again in a couple of key cities yet but I Netflix you can get it all the time in the version you intended to. That's a really special feeling to know that you're partners who are willing to support you as you said you never done a documentary but more. But then when they see the product when they see the value in these stories this shared. History unfortunately shared tragedy. Among groups of individuals in Los Angeles. They believe that was powerful business. That it was worthy of putting it on putting it in theaters and putting in enough space. Where people see it move report. So as we go into the end of the year which is awards season now there. Your documentary is now eligible for academy consideration as best documentary. Because it was open the weird thing was eight they did open. You hope and a time before it appeared on ABC. Yeah I know so we're in terms of recognition having gone through once with the right slaves yes volume and what happens now what happens. Voters will surprise you some time I don't know anybody is recognized and then the other one I think there's nothing but pride they will surprise you but knowing and having experience that level of positive peer review. I'm there's nothing like that in terms of bringing the kinds of positive attention that you want the work that you do and with these stories about time place and circumstance about. Human dynamic everyday heroes and people who rose to the occasion. Certainly that appears view it's very important all of us when this story for the rest of the world. Again win you make something that the events in it were 25 years ago. Is that a concern about explain. I'm asking you this as a person who's seen in admired this movie so much you do a lot of things people don't we we do feet. A lot of people talking to us and we don't quite them they are yeah you withhold that information until. Near the end as to who they are so that we don't make that judgment. Exactly yeah yeah. We very much didn't want people to come in but we knew people would come in with their expectations and there's there's absolutely nothing you can do about that. But I think for any stored whether it's a documentary whether it's romantic comedy or scifi film. Almost time to walk out of the theater and if you your expectations were just pop and and you're not exactly sure how to think I think Chris Nolan probably those that better than anyone not only is there are his films worth going to be with respect. Jordan to look at walk out of the theater and sometimes not know what that thing. Is an appropriate response I think when people come to history like this. And a lot of people are gonna come and gone I know that persons the bad guy and what they did was reprehensible and find on the like this person because it's so easy for myself. To see me in that person rather than someone else where it cannot seem on reflection. Take 2025 minutes and hope in those export expectations. Excavate new stories and to make an audience wander out of that theater going I'm not rich world. What principals think. I mean I'm listening to say that and I hit a three sided as somebody that looks at movies all the time and yet the whole industries seems to be. So against that idea or that let's make it clear. Everything that's going to have been right at the outset right you don't do that you don't do that mean anything do. I I don't know that one show it and I don't think there you know every film should should play out every single way but I do thing for me personally there are times now where. There's such an expectation with a audiences that wolf and not the negated if we just don't make it also clear. On the nose and say the same thing through three times. But we know who the hero is we know what their objectives are. Sometimes life isn't exactly like that one made from about Jimi Hendrix did and one of the things that I loved about it was here was a person who was. Clearly one of V great. Rocket cars ever live but we Lincoln's life never sent them on the -- Iraq. And I know my objective and on the reaches one of the amazing things about this story is that it really was up to so many other people to. Lay their hands arms so you know what you got you can do it. To me those kinds of individuals so fascinating individuals are caught up in history swept up ethnic choices that a lot of us. May not be able to maker could not be and that's certainly a lot of let it fall where its people in the wake up in the morning and sale Camden gone hero. More than a wake up and sentiment on the development of something horrible yet. They do a little bit of Bo and seeing those individuals how the arrived those moments. To me is what makes this film emotionally. Powerful so potent because it's such a velocity. Well you know at the beginning with it when we're back in 82 and we're looking at main theme case you know the twenty years all and again the chokehold. And all of that far and then the connection again from. That being forbidden to fit the times that are going to be instrumental in beating Rodney King to do it. But the blue Reginald dating one. That is really fascinating to me this is white. Truck driver. And the violence that he has the face and also very kindness that bases within it. That's what I think resonates so powerfully freedom I'm using him as an example but we think we know the answers but we down. I think that's one of the remaining indelible images of the whole Rodney King uprising. People remember Rodney King being beaten by police officers. And then once the uprising began as you say Reginald Denny white truck driver just driving through south central and he's set upon and he's beaten. And the people look at and go well OK there's some kind of equivalency there. One Blackman being beaten white man being beaten and that's all there was for the story. But there was so much more do it and you talk about that moment win. Reginald Denny is being beaten and there any number of just regular citizens south central residents and black people did know him. Didn't know anything about him and there's a moment and a story where police officer believes control cannot be returned to that in this. And orders his police officers to back mountain and we ask him about it the book does nothing to do with circumstance like that I couldn't risk my officers being killed. All we deduce turnoff the TV and cannot. And in the film. Right when he says that we have this gentleman Bobby green who's watching all this on television. He's a truck driver himself. He knows. He can garden drive that truck and save this man even though he doesn't know when you've and the original in his. White guy raced in matters so classed in matter. He's a brother truck driver. And Bobby gringos that in a section at the list goes on one. And saves this individual those are the kinds of stores in the title of the film let it fall within the system. Was designed to crash could not. Stand on the weight of its own moral authority but when systems fall people rise. And that to me was really one of the things we want explored in this film not that it was just this. Depressing tale of the worst of Austin but seeing that when we are challenged some people do have the capacity to fund the best. And some people never change. And if you're movie deals with that is well yeah. You see the best of what people are capable of onside you wouldn't expect them to be you know and at the same time there's. Well again I don't want him. Be giving away what you're doing in this but there is a police officer retired now you know who talks about what happened with. Not a lot of regret. Not a lot of regret and also not a lot of shock and often and that some of these extraordinary moments that you were higher other individuals were remember. About police violence and I think there's no other way to contextualize it. Even you would be looking for some regret or remorse war and we do see that in some of these offices with a look back and go. I wish we could have done things differently or that wasn't my intent. But there's some individuals police were citizens. Look back and it's like that's who it was going to be and I I have no shame in and I have no regret. And that's the very hard thing with think and 25 years. Somehow in some way some folks would move on and in some respects. But to be so locked in a moment and to not seal way to change oneself. That does that gives talks. We see who are outside of what police are doing tip what we see reported. That we add the phrase pain compliance. If you move he just comes out at me. Fact the most horrible things are happening under term that sound like all. This would be nice and technical also do you would think there until if you don't give me any trouble ever again in oh here this. It's the euphemisms it's the the matter of fact way again you're talking about one of these police officers talk about the Rodney King beating which just. It's hard to look at it not at least they will this will rip. What do you think it was the right thing to do we're not at some point yeah okay like Noah looks terrific but. And and one of the officers just look at ago I compared him when he arrest of the tip of my fingers that was worse than that. In what kind of environment isn't what kind of environment we live thing. I'm those spaces where we have communities we have each other again what we do not see ourselves in other people. That's where we had to these places now where they're there really is no other form of expression and if a spill on the speaks and demand to be heard. It is one of the other things that you do so well in this movie is to not be judgmental. You put it out there. But I don't sense you with your finger pointing behind the camera saying that stopped and I felt like anything did he say you know it's basically out there for us to deal with and there's no easy answers to. And resilience is known about have the answer is about is the start from a place some of them to tell you exactly when the thing. I would probably find another what line of work we get into that and could. Offer up things that are really actionable. I don't have the answers and if I had audiences. They're probably not that easy to apply to begin. I've been very fortunate my career warp in the opine business if there's something nice about and putting your opinion in the certain spaces and but I don't know that just. Putting one's opinion out there. Is the best way to invite other people to come in and offer their perspective and their solutions because we really are you Jesus comes. We are all part of that solution. And anybody who don't want to documentary like this but I think any documentary any elevated piece of work. You know there they've already done have to work in coming into the theater coming the space they don't need my finger wag their faces. On the wanna be moved we want to be reminded so if you. On to learn certain things about history and take that knowledge and move forward people asked me walk and you don't. Talk about Ferguson and you don't talk about Baltimore Cincinnati. And Tom. For us it wasn't about. Trying to offer uses solutions for other very singular problem. What happened in Los Angeles 25 years ago it was very singular to outlast. The still problems in the system and other systemic issues. But people need to be driven out of this or any. Piece that inspires people to think you won't find those very singular solutions wherever the problem is another city another place with the other communities. And to find those people that he fact there. Because. I think we all feel this we'll talk to people about anything that's in the news and we'll say. You have but I met's own self and he was bare back and he said this to me and suddenly I see it in this different way your movie. Is filled with those people there's a dozen of those people who use if you had the privilege of meeting them. You would have that conversation and you might get your head turned around a little bit about this but he can't always be. I mean I don't know how you found them and now you got their cooperation. Do you contribute to this room there's a lot of people are are saying things that you would think if they had people all around. Thinking along you don't want I want to say that this is I will give so much credit to our producers who worked on. This production and again didn't just call people and say look I heard something really horrible happened to 25 years ago. We want to talk about that we really created the space one of the reasons this this is two and 25 minute movie. There's so much space would keep with them about the families where they came from the fact that. Many of these individuals that are immigrants to loss. And what that really means to the fabric of our city there's so many people like myself. It came to LA because I believe that there was hopes or dreams possible and they certainly war. But win my desire and my director. On becomes exclusive to you wars or anybody else that's where we start. When I see it as mine now and not our Al. So was very important for us to get these individuals together who yes would share their stories who understood that there are stories would be given equal weight. With in this mosaic and tapestry. But also would understand that in sharing those stores and showing it can activity. They would help educate people that if we don't we don't find that commonality and and in in times relaxation. The only times that we find it going to be times com. And we see that again and again in. These extraordinary events that happened to us as citizens Americans and almost some of this. You need the shared bought then but it's always there. And the most powerful thing coming up this move is when these folks. Could express an understanding of other people's circumstances of the people who blew them what they had been through. And you know it's coming shared. Sheer desire. Men and just thinking that should not be. Baseline. Why that's why it's 82 to 92 I mean would it's just not about the Rodney King case and the verdict. It's saying look at this thing it's been simmering there and fifth inspect and what you think to explode. And we're not seeing there. Nobody was hindsight is easy. I'm less than it is very varies and eventually wondered what are the kinds of things that are happening right now and what are the issues and who's dealing with them. On the other thing you know I'm very fortunate because my life is good though because my circumstances in this moment. Our benefit. You can't assume that everyone else is live in the same way. And some people you know they walk out of us this film last means the only PD changed. His Los Angeles changed against the only he has changed his much better organization much more in tune with community policing. The majority of our communities in Los Angeles and better and more livable. We can assume that it's that way for everyone and and every circumstance and the next time something like this could happen I do believe it could. What do the demographics where is it going to be represented on what part of town. And we can't look to the past and say okay. In the future. And keep eye on south central Los Angeles and make sure that. Its citizens and everyone there is ultimately provided for an instant they have a voice in the community. That's great we can assume that the problems solved one part of Los Angeles. That's all for all ports world anywhere in the anywhere in the country. Solutions are hard to come very hard to come the movie reflects that. The sensitive but just the use of the word uprising rather than DLA riots or the Rodney King riots that happened after. Fences yet we begin to see that it's come out of something the uprising idea is. Which is not mad period when we've got some reason for doing. I didn't come out of nowhere wasn't just about one incident that happened one night one community it really was important to big again up in people's expectations. Coming into it in the called the Rodney King riots. Rodney King had nothing to do you there. It didn't start right after his assault they didn't even start right after the verdict was read in Simi Valley. So I think putting in people's had the idea that that this was something that happened over time but there were any number of individuals. Who tried in a Dick. Who tried to communicate with the city the police administrators. Tried to warn people that there were issues in the city and that we were heading toward the bed space. I'm the people either couldn't or wouldn't listen wood did not as he says sometimes problem solving is not an easy thing. And it's not something that working towards it falls off so was very important for us in the circumstances. To. Mean people look at it as a right not just a moment violence and certainly torn vile and violence was directive on variants and individuals. But it was about people over time from the stand up and make themselves heard. And when you look at it because she discussed in the beginning about working on this as a film as a feature with likely. Would that still happen is that something you would still do. Good question I don't think there's any substitute. For that communal experience when people go into a theater. They sit down and they are moved by every aspect of the story tell the performers the script Tom Ward filled the music it's it's it's. If it's a way of taking a story and making it as Buell as possible really visualize an actual lines but having done it's very true story. And done it with people who lived survived. Who've been carrying this story with them for 25 years when they tell that story. There's an immediacy in this wrongness as though these events happen yesterday it would be it would be. A little difficult as a storyteller. You just know laughed ago and and a mansion and sort of recreate something that a witness. So very very known but wouldn't say no now while. If upheld this it's that that you seemed to shy away from. In you know with all with what you did with American crime for three seasons thank you for the Oscar you deservedly won for writing this script for twelve years to select. Four grill which few is amazing story again going into the path to do that and you John Ridley. I think a guy who did Stan con. So we hear is what hair did this other man come up who is giving us these kinds of things that we can grant. Apple like you know I think fields problem comedy is known comedies equals via comedy is tragedy plus time equals comedy. And taking the painful things in this giving some distance. You know I think there's a sad irony in many of this certainly it's not a comedy. But is a cosmic tragedy and in some ways we looking at things and you know would would god to sort of laugh. For not seeing the connections in the can activity all of these things so I don't. Over the last certainly. Several years in my life been very fortunate in being blast for not shying away from very difficult stores in twelve years was very difficult as American climber who reluctant and this was maybe one of the most difficult. Because you are being trusted. With people's very real stores then there are real emotions. Their legacies but talking about family members of the law the talk about. Moments in their own lines that were very very painful. And if they believe that putting in the public space. Is doing some good so having been through this in haven't really sat with the true. I'm very real true. For some time now I think it would be a little bit difficult just a little bit difficult. To go back to the creative license that you're given when you make of film and creative license that most people. They except on infants except that they get it understand that they know that there's a difference between what they do exactly as you can do it but. For me you know standing you know just this far behind the camera looking at it. And knowing that it stripped of its emotional. Knowing. Sent the truth. And in this far away from someone and they if. You have and Yale you can also show the truth without hammering somebody where that you did to Jimmy and takes picture without most of its music. You know you cut youth who. That done things. That most people wouldn't be able to do so you have some. Power and clout in the industry tonight what did and don't you don't. Well I have a lot of trust in Iowa I will say that I have a lot of trust. That anyone trust you to do your first document written at this level you know that's a lot of trust with American crime for three seasons. Where people said look we know you're going to be talking about race. Or class or gender orientation. Or the stress points in society but we think that you can do it in the broadcast its effects. And do a to a very high degree on that comes from trucks so yes I have that I've been very fortunate. To not only to get it but for people who give it on on multiple occasions. Because it has to be earned every time out so if I were going to do this is and I hope yes that people would trust. That it would be unflinching. That would be honest. That it would hold back in and storytelling. But at the same time it would find a way to connect with people in terms of who we are and what we're about. Will you did. And people should go and feed this movie now which ever waiting and do it. In the full version that you intended to do and I'm sure now with American crime no longer on and this past you're going totally rom com. The fact that I think is that the new to the new play going to be doing so light comedy. And just nothing but. And in these times there and listened there there are more often times they get home at the end of the day in and say you know what we mean it's just you know the new version of Sullivan's travels and yet hoping that reminds us it's OK to laugh and a few good. So I would not be surprised you may see something like that from. I think that would be great because you this is the first time you've been on ownership of so you don't know we end in song we ended a snippet of song from you well OK Doug could be all that Jimi Hendrix she never got him to do but it could just be something. Because is that in your life you've got kids right duo got isn't it that really levels things out on the the point of view is that the your ego he can not really rise that high now you when there's children involved. It really becomes about now to your legacy and putting something for the world. Than you will achieve more and the things that you do one does one's mind my kids through eminent if it's absolutely certain but I. Give this on to them. Lincoln might really is this yet happens to everybody says I don't mean I don't know we need you know it's wrong there's music everywhere. There is but a shower when you don't connect and I know we don't care we like that that I do moment of true a poetry I'd read you can do whatever you can stand up. Front and later when I'm gonna make a live. And they ethnic government but with someone in my gonna make a living. If it was always one of the really inspire us in New York years ago the school and it was just edition today news made. And became iconic. Career as Regis sing a song and me who. To scrap and then straighten. We but I won't give the it's all then it's poetry it's poetry. Just like your movie in kind of emotional. Sometimes bruising way but that's what did that keep doing what you're doing and really there. They grapefruit thank you break that.
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