(Lisa is currently in the process of cleaning out her DVR! She has got over 170 movies to watch and she is determined to get it all done by the end of the year! She recorded the 2017 documentary Burn Motherfucker, Burn! off of Showtime on April 22nd!)
I should note that the title of this film actually doesn’t contain any asterisks. Burn, Motherf**ker Burn! may be how it was listed in the guide but the opening credits proudly and loudly proclaim: BURN MOTHERFUCKER, BURN!
It’s an appropriate title because there’s actually not a subtle moment to be found in Burn, Motherfucker, Burn! Burn, Motherfucker Burn probably will not change anyone’s opinion about anything but that doesn’t really seem to be the film’s goal. This is an angry and outspoken documentary, one that deals with the long history of conflict between the LAPD and the black community of Los Angeles. Starting with cell phone footage of the 2015 killing of Charley Keunang before flashing back to the 1965 Watts riot and ending with the 1992 Los Angeles uprising, Burn, Motherfucker, Burn! is pure agitprop.
How you react to the documentary will largely depend on how you view race in America. If you go into this film thinking that issues of police brutality and systemic racism are overstated, you’ll probably think Burn, Motherfucker Burn is one-sided propaganda. If you go into the film thinking that America is still struggling to overcome the effects of systemic racism and that the police unfairly target minorities, Burn, Motherfucker Burn will confirm your every suspicion and might even inspire you to take a stand. If the viewer doesn’t already agree with Burn, Motherfucker Burn‘s outlook, then Burn, Motherfucker Burn doesn’t have much use for that viewer.
I have to admit that I probably would have had a stronger reaction to Burn, Motherfucker Burn! if I hadn’t finally watched O.J.: Made In America a few weeks ago. Quite a bit of the more infuriating footage used in Burn, Motherfucker Burn! — such as Bill Parker, the chief of the LAPD in the 60s, casually dismissing the concerns of the black community on a talk show — also appeared in O.J.: Made in America. In fact, there’s very little in Burn, Motherfucker Burn! that wasn’t previously dealt with in the first two parts of the O.J. documentary.
That said, speaking as a self-confessed history nerd, there are a few interesting things to be learned from Burn, Motherfucker Burn. For instance, before watching this documentary, I didn’t know that the infamous gangs of Los Angeles — which have been the subject of so many movies and tv shows — were started largely to provide neighborhoods with protection from the police. The film shows how a vibrant artistic and cultural movement came about as a result of people rebelling against endless oppression. For me, those were the most interesting parts of the film.
Charlie Beck, the current LAPD chief, is also interviewed. He suggests that, as long as everyone does what they’re told to do, no one should worry about a thing. He doesn’t bother to mention what Charley Keunang did to get gunned down at the start of the documentary.