Justin Chon wrote, directed, and starred in this thought-provoking black and white film with the theme of racism between people of color. It takes place exclusively on April 29, 1992, the day the “not guilty” verdict was rendered to the police involved in the Rodney King beating, and South Central L.A. subsequently erupted with looting, violence, and fires.
Eli (Chon) and his brother, Daniel (David So), are Korean Americans who own a shoe store in Paramount. This is a poor community populated predominantly by African Americans. The store is losing money, but Eli feels obligated to continue its operation, which was started by his father. Daniel would like to be an R&B singer and is a reluctant participant in working at the store, which creates considerable conflict between them. On the way to open the store, Eli gets beaten up by several African Americans for no apparent reason.
Kamilla (Simone Baker) is an about-11-year-old African American girl who likes Eli and Daniel. She doesn’t appear to have parents, and her older sister and brother, Keith (Curtiss Cook, Jr.), don’t seem very involved. Kamilla has cut school this day and is helping the brothers out at the store. Curtiss (Isaiah Jarel), however, is an unsavory character who is very opposed to Kamilla’s close relationship with Eli and Daniel.
Across the street from the shoe store is a liquor store owned by an older Korean immigrant, Mr. Kim (Sang Chon). Mr. Kim doesn’t like or trust the African American customers who now dominate the neighborhood, especially Kamilla, who steals from his store.
The film is very intense, but too much so. There is almost no respite from very-emotionally-charged interpersonal encounters, although it’s still an interesting and creative film. Justin Chon is talented, but the movie’s message is muddled and it doesn’t quite form a coherent whole. It will work fine as a rental, but the film has enough going for it that it’s worth seeing on the BS now, if this topic is of interest to you.