Review: 'A Love Song For Latasha'

Post by: Rick Ellis 22 September, 2020

One of the underappreciated art forms is the short film, specifically the short documentary film. In an era where every TV show and special seems to feel the need to be as a long as it can possibly be, it's refreshing to see short films that are tightly constructed and just the length they need to be. Sometimes you can tell an entire story in less than 15 minutes and have as much emotional impact on the audience as you would have with a two-hour special. 

That's certainly the case with the new Netflix short film A Love For Natasha, which tells the story of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins.

The film spends most of it's time talking about Latasha and while you know she was killed, it's not until the very last moments of the film that the details of her death are revealed. Which seems like an odd creative choice at first glance. But what that does is that it allows the film to focus on her young life. There are interviews with family members and her best friends. You get a sense of Latasha's life in South Central Los Angeles. Her mom had been killed in a shooting at a nightclub when she was nine. Raised by her grandmother, she was driven to succeed. She planned on being a lawyer and was getting straight A's in high school. She dreamed of coming back and improving her grandmother's life, of owning businesses that could help her community. She appears to have been an extraordinary young woman.

But she was also a 15-year-old who was shot in the back of the head and killed by a store owner who thought she was planning to steal a container of orange juice worth $1.79. She died holding the two dollars she had planned on using to pay for the juice and according to one of the people interviewed in the film, the store owner frequently pointed the gun at teens she thought might be trying to shoplift. 

The clerk, Soon Ja Du, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Judge Joyce Karlin sentenced her to probation, 400 hours of community service and a $500 fine. 

Latasha's death became one of the primary causes of the 1992 L.A. riots. And while that fact is an important for historical purposes, one of the best things about A Love Song For Latasha is that it mentions the political impact of her death only in passing. The film focuses on her life and the impact she had on the people she left behind. Which makes this film a fitting tribute to a young woman who deserves to be remembered.

A Love Song For Latasha premiered September 21st, 2020 on Netflix.

Last modified on Tuesday, 22 September 2020 10:45