Los Angeles, 1942. The United States has entered World War II, and the patriotic spirit is running high. At the same time, racial tension in L.A. are boiling over, aggravated by the biased racism of the news media that has branded young Mexican-American men, dressed in zoot suits and the pachuco style, as criminals, thugs, and an infestation. Within this turmoil, Henry Reyna, the leader of the 38th Street Gang, is accused of murder. He and his co-defendants are set up to lose the trial, and while volunteers ardently work to overturn his conviction, Henry begins to lose hope. At the same time, the historic Zoot Suit Riots explode, where U.S. servicemen stripped young Mexican-Americans and burned their clothes in the street. If Henry is ever released, what kind of world will this young pachuco live in?
Inspired by both the Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trial of Henry Leyvas in 1942 and the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943, Luis Valdez weaves a heartbreaking dramatization of history and social commentary. The message of 1942 was still relevant when Zoot Suit premiered in 1978, and its anti-racist message is still as vital as ever today.
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