Monday, April 14, 2008

Sa-I-Gu and Twilight

I remember being very young and watching footage of Rodney King being beaten on TV, as well as news stories about the riots. I'm not sure why, as a four-year-old, I would remember these things, but I know that after that, I was left with a very clear feeling that my Asian family sided not with the African Americans, but the Asians, regardless of which side was "right" or "wrong".

So it's really interesting for me to watch Sa-I-Gu now, remembering that racial tensions are still strong in the United States, and how my family felt about the riots. The incident definitely became a part of pop culture, in films, in rap music from the West Coast to the East Coast, and in many articles/books written about this period in LA's history. There's still, I feel, residual anger about the riots. While I was watching the TV show LOST a while ago, a black character on the show told a Korean (not Korean American) character that "black people and Korean people just don't get along, don't like each other, in the United States).

I've also watched Anna Deveare Smith's documentary film about the riots, Twilight, and for me, it was even more striking than Sa-I-Gu, because Deveare-Smith manages to portray all her characters so realistically and so honestly; what they say is made more obvious, more bare, because Deveare-Smith is the one who repeats all their words, their actions, their mannerisms. Many of the Korean characters in Twilight express the sentiments and attitudes that the subjects of Sa-I-Gu feel. In both films, as well, I sense that there is a major disconnect between the black and Korean-American communities of LA at the time of the riots -- what explains this barrier of understanding? Cultural differences, racism, or just indifference? I suppose that's the question of all of America's race history.

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