POV: Who Killed Vincent Chin? A Special Encore and Screening

August 13, 2022

POV: Who Killed Vincent Chin? airs Monday, August 15 at 10 p.m. on THIRTEEN. Stream the film now with the Thirteen member benefit THIRTEEN Passport. See information on the library screening event, below.

On a hot summer night in Detroit in 1982, Ronald Ebens, an autoworker, killed Vincent Chin, a young Chinese American engineer, with a baseball bat. Although Ebens confessed, he never spent a day in jail. This gripping Academy Award-nominated film by Christine Choy and Renee Tajima-Peña relentlessly probes the implications of the murder, for the families of those involved, and for the American justice system.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the racially motivated murder of Vincent Chin on June 19, 1982. The documentary, which originally aired on POV in July 1989, details the incident from initial eyewitness accounts, the ensuing murder trials to the lenient sentences the assailants received, and the repercussions for the families and community involved. Who Killed Vincent Chin? also chronicles how the case brought the disparate Asian American communities of Detroit together for the first time, and how they transformed themselves from a grassroots advocacy group into a national movement.

Their efforts helped bring public attention to the anti-Asian hate that led to Vincent Chin’s murder, and encouraged Asian American groups across the country to fight for equality and justice. The U.S. Department of Justice brought federal civil rights charges against the killers, who were ultimately acquitted on appeal, on grounds of pre-trial publicity and errors made with witnesses.

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The film was recently restored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and also selected for the National Film Registry. The filmmakers reflected on their work this year.

“I was vaguely aware of the killing of Vincent Chin in 1982. The next year, when I had the opportunity to meet Lily Chin, Vincent’s mother in Detroit, Michigan, I knew this was a story that would make an impact. The project started as a short film to help the American Citizens for Justice (ACJ) raise the legal fee but with the support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the film was expanded. It was a privilege to have taken part in the telling of this story nearly forty years ago and still see its relevance and importance today.” said Who Killed Vincent Chin? filmmaker Christine Choy.

“We knew who killed Vincent Chin, but the real question was why? Was it because of his race? For me it was a Rashomon-like enigma, trying to untangle the conflicting perspectives of the people who lived through the case. It also revealed the fractures in America itself, and ultimately, how people bridged those divides to fight for justice” Who Killed Vincent Chin? filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña added.

Who Killed Vincent Chin? represents a critical turning point for Asian Americans with chilling relevance today. Anti-Asian sentiments that were further stoked by the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to ongoing xenophobia, particularly against Chinese Americans, though they have affected the broader AAPI community.

From March 19, 2020 to December 31, 2021, over ten thousand hate crime incidents were reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit coalition tracking incidents of hate and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Breaking news headlines about the 2021 Atlanta and Indianapolis shootings, and the recent murders in New York City of Christina Yuna Lee and Michelle Go as well, show that these hate crimes are disproportionately targeted at the elderly and Asian American women.

Special Free Library Screening

Join THIRTEEN and Pelham Parkway-Van Nest Library for a free public screening of POV: Who Killed Vincent Chin? on Monday, August 22 at 2 p.m.  Register here. The event will have accessibility assets for hard of hearing, deaf, blind and low-vision viewers via All4Access.

The screening is being held at the Pelham Parkway-Van Nest Library in the Bronx.