Film inspired by L.A. Race Riots, Produced by Young, St. Mary’s Native.

November 20, 2015

AW_02A short film inspired by the 1992 Los Angeles riots is aimed at shining light on the struggle Korean-American merchants faced at the onset of civil unrest while exploring racial and moral dilemmas at the epicenter of humanity.

Named after the tumultuous month in central Los Angeles after the controversial Rodney King trial verdict April 29, 1992, April’s Way offers a vignette into a Korean storeowner’s balancing act between taking up arms against looters and protecting his family. A variety of rioters present unique challenges to the store owner who wants his business to survive while holding onto his wife and daughter and his own rationality.

April’s Way is produced by St. Mary’s County native, Matt Hardman. Hardman graduated from Leonardtown High School in 2007, where he became fascinated with filmmaking and the art of story. “I’ve always loved technology, but it wasn’t until late in high school when I realized how to marry that fascination with a deeper purpose.” He credits a large part of his inspiration to former AP English teacher, Eric Heisler, who challenged students to always dive deeper. An assignment to investigate the inner-working of students’ hometowns, called “The Slackwater Project,” an homage to a St. Mary’s College publication, had Matt traveling the state to better understand one’s relationship with and preservation of our waterways, a unique and all important element to Southern Maryland life. This project spawned several local filmmaking opportunities for Hardman, an education in Film Production at Ohio University, work on major feature films, such as
Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012), and now leading the charge on his own independent films in Hollywood, California.

April’s Way is his latest, in conjunction with longtime filmmaking partner, Robert Nyerges. The movie set in ’92 was shot on 35mm film to add to the authenticity of the time period in which the events unfolded, an aspect producer Matt Hardman was intent on to show the timelessness of ongoing racial distrust and civil unrest.

“In order to succeed, I knew we’d have to nail every aspect of production,” Hardman said. “It’s very tough to recreate any time period. It’s very important the production design, the costumes, the location, and even the medium which we filmed on, all matched that of the 90’s. It’s one thing to tell this story accurately, but another to illustrate how similar the events in April 1992 look compared to today. We have an opportunity to inspire change by learning from the past.” Director Robert Nyerges continues, “There’s this cyclical process of racism. This is still happening, and it’s really disheartening.”

The idea for the film spawned in 2013 but it wasn’t until the police killing of an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo. and the subsequent public outcry when the filmmakers knew it was a short film worth pursuing. “Rodney King said it best when he said, ‘Can’t we all just get along?’” Nyerges explained. “Maybe this is what it takes, for people to see the uglier side of humanity.”

Scouting for locations, producer Matt Hardman and Nyerges found one of the Korean markets that had been looted, vandalized and burned to the ground during the rioting, forcing the store owners to rebuild and reopen years later. Shooting inside a Korean-owned business that had been impacted so severely by the rioting was vital to the authenticity of the film, Hardman said.

April’s Way’s success will be a springboard to a road of awareness and advocacy framed around race, police brutality, cultural disparity and the exploration of humanity. The team has launched a crowdfunding campaign aimed at finishing the film, distribution, as well as additional featurettes and interviews to better explore the multicultural impacts such riots have had on the people of Los Angeles and across the nation. To learn more about the campaign and how to support Matt’s project April’s Way, visit www.aprilsway.com.

“With more eyes on the project, the more people we reach and the more lives we touch,” Nyerges said.

Hardman adds: “Because there’s a cause, we want to give this a life beyond just the release of the film.”