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From A Love Song for Latasha (2019), dir. Sophia Nahli Allison (image courtesy Netflix)

The 1991 murder of Latasha Harlins was one of the inciting incidents for the following year’s mass uprising in Los Angeles. But the new short documentary A Love Song for Latasha does not wish to dwell on the circumstances of her death. Director Sophia Nahli Allison believes that in the decades since, Harlins as a human being has been obscured. She wants to recapture who this Black teen was in life, so that she can be more than a symbol of racial injustice.

To that end, Allison interviews two women who knew Latasha well: her best friend Ty and her cousin Shinese. Described as a “spiritual archive,” the film is a memory play, bringing their reminiscences about Latasha to life with magic-realist-infused reenactments and expressive sequences. Though brief, it is suffused with tremendous melancholy. Not just a tribute to a single person, A Love Song for Latasha is also an affecting expression of how we briefly bring the people who are special to us back to life in the act of remembering, through love and grief alike.

A Love Song for Latasha is available on Netflix.

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Dan Schindel

Dan Schindel is Associate Editor for Documentary at Hyperallergic. He lives and works in New York.