A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
"The only way we're going to get treated like queens is if we carry ourselves that way."
Positive Role Models
Latasha Harlins planned to graduate from high school with a perfect GPA, become an attorney and businesswoman, and to give back to her community. She was polite, studious, kind, helpful, responsible, and caring.
Violence & Scariness
A 9-year-old girl's mother is shot to death. Six years later, that girl is shot in the back of the head by a storekeeper who claims the girl was stealing a container of orange juice. Violence is offscreen. A woman remembers being held underwater by some bullies until she was rescued by the girl who would become her best friend. A Black woman talks about racism, recalling that store owners called her and her friends "monkeys" and followed them around the stores, assuming that because they were Black they would do harm or steal. She recalls that Harlins "was aware of her color and accepted it."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Love Song for Latasha is a brief documentary (19 minutes) tribute to a bright and promising teenager named Latasha Harlins who was shot in 1991 in the back of the head by a shopkeeper in her South Central Los Angeles neighborhood. The shopkeeper claimed Harlins was stealing a container of orange juice, but evidence suggests Harlins was about to pay with the money she had in her hands. No violence is shown, and few details are given of the murder, except to note that the shopkeeper was let off without jail time and that the murder was one incident said to have set off the 1992 Los Angeles riots. A Black woman talks about racism, recalling that store owners called her and her friends "monkeys" and followed them around the stores, assuming that because they were Black they would do harm or steal. Language includes "damn." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Director Allison calls herself an experimental documentary filmmaker and, as with many experiments, the results of this short film are mixed. There are many moving moments in A Love Song for Latasha. Harlins' dear friends cry as they remember the extraordinary person they lost, but many of the images that surround their heartfelt tributes -- snowy TV-screen static, for example -- add nothing to a film dedicated to telling stories of tragic and criminal treatment of Black Americans.
Still, Allison does make the important point that "We are challenging a system that has historically prevented Black women and Black girls from having agency over their narrative and public image. We are activating this space. We are interrogating new ways to imagine and engage with Black history that has been erased or left void." This documentary makes a good contribution to Black narratives controlled by the people who experience those narratives. What is great here are the words of Harlins' great friends and the picture they etch of an extraordinary young woman who seemed destined to do great things, filled with love, decency, care, and intelligence. The decision to delay an account of the sad facts of Harlins' tragedy for the film's last moments -- summarized in four text panels of white letters on a black screen -- is puzzling. This vital information served up earlier would have made the film even more moving.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.