Rise On Up: LA Riots, a Saigu Retrospective is a documentary video project that gives broader context to the LA Riots building on a Korean American perspective. We show how the riots affected the community, presenting stories from people who witnessed the violence, as well as focusing on what some leaders, teachers and artists have been doing since to help bring progress in its aftermath.
This journey started ten years ago. As representatives of the Korean American Film Festival New York (“KAFFNY,” a 501(c)(3)) we were approached by a member of the Korean American Democratic Committee (“KADC”) to create a video commemorating 20 years since the LA Riots, to be shown at a celebration that aspired to be a star-studded and diverse event to mark how far the Korean American community had progressed. However, political conflict over drawing council borders that year threatened to continue dividing Koreatown into multiple districts, causing the festivities to be indefinitely postponed. Ironically, in trying to celebrate how far we had come, we found how many challenges remained.
We made a decision to go forth with our project in March of 2012, after filming interviews in Dallas concerning the boycott of a Korean-owned Kwikstop gas station and later that day witnessing portrayals of Korean Americans shooting guns without due context in VH1’s “Uprising: Hip Hop and the LA Riots” at its SXSW premiere in Austin. That following April we shot hundreds of hours of footage at a myriad of events around the 20th anniversary in Los Angeles, interviewing various members from different communities who were involved in the riots, the rebuilding in the aftermath, as well as many young people inspired to effect social change after witnessing the riots as children.
(The project took us into a deeper history of Korean American immigration including those who came in the early 1900s, the “Korean Pioneers.” We also found parallels comparing and contrasting the experiences of diverse people living in Korea. While the scope of themes that are necessary to properly comprehend the bigger picture of the LA Riots is broad, we observed that they are not unlike the struggles encountered by people throughout the world.)
We continuously applied for grants to complete the project almost every year since, while proactively adding a number of esteemed advisors. Still, we found it difficult to find support from the competitive and limited resources generally available for these kinds of initiatives. The Covid pandemic and the ensuing anti-Asian hate rhetoric provided further impetus that the lessons to be extracted from the LA Riots would be useful in enhancing understanding and more constructive methods of healing. Given the 30th anniversary of the riots coming up, we decided we would have to proceed with the project as far as we could using our own resources.
Rise On Up: LA Riots is currently in post-production. We have nearly completed a picture-lock of our feature-length documentary. We are seeking completion funds and/or assistance with obtaining the following:
- editing consultation
- graphic visuals
- archival footage and clearance
- music clearance
- administrative, accounting and legal
- color correction/grading
- sound design and mix
- DCP and masters
- advisor honoraria
- marketing and publicity support
- website and social media
- festival submissions/travel
David H. Kim (Director) is a writer/director based in his native city of Seoul. He released his debut feature/experimental VR project (XIMBI XOMBI X), while creating the music soundtrack. He won First Place in New Perspectives at the Winter Film Awards (HELENA'S FLUSHING), and has been invited to Busan International Film Festival (IT STRIKES TWICE), Mise-en-Scéne's Short Film Festival in Seoul (RUNNING FROM THE DEVIL). David earned his M.F.A. in Film/TV Directing at Tisch NYU, J.D. at Georgetown University Law Center, and B.A. Economics at Pomona College.
Grace Ryu (Producer) is a former Deputy City Attorney for Los Angeles and educator at the University Laboratory School in Honolulu, Hawaii. She was a policy analyst and editor at the United Nations Development Programme, where she co-authored Global Public Goods: Taking the Concept Forward (2001, UNDP). Grace is a social media consultant and freelance writer. Grace attended Yale University, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and the Washington School of Law at American University. She currently resides in San Diego, CA.
Yunah Hong (Co-Producer) is an award winning writer and director in NYC. Her latest feature documentary, “Anna May Wong: in her own words” (2011) was broadcast on 200 PBS stations between 2013- 2015. It is currently streaming on Amazon Prime video. She has written, produced and directed eight films including two documentaries. “Between the Lines: Asian American Women’s Poetry” (2001) is a feature documentary about sixteen Asian American poets. “Becoming an Actress in New York” (2000), documentary that follows the trials and tribulations of three Korean American young actresses. It was broadcasted on Korean cables. Her short film, “Here Now” won the Jury’s Special award at Seoul Short Film festival. She has made several experimental shorts, including “Memory/all echo” (1990), based on DICTEE by the late Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. She is a graduate of Seoul National University (BFA) in Korea and New York Institute of Technology (MA) in the US. Currently she teaches production courses at City College of New York/CUNY.
Sunghan Lee (Co-Producer) is a director of over 100 TV documentaries for major Korean broadcasting networks, while focusing on many international stories and cultures. While living in Los Angeles, he produced nightly news during the LA Riots, combining American media footage with local Korean footage, for The Asian Network (TAN), the first Korean satellite TV station in the US which was located in the CNN building. He is a graduate from the University of Hawaii, B.A. Mass Communications.