NEW YORK — “POV,” now in its 35th year as America’s longest-running independent documentary series, presents a special encore presentation of the gripping 1988 Academy Award-nominated film “Who Killed Vincent Chin?” by filmmakers Christine Choy and Renee Tajima-Peña on Monday, June 20, 2022 at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
The documentary was recently restored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and also selected for the National Film Registry.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the racially motivated murder of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American, by two white men, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, in Detroit 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 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.
“I was vaguely aware of the killing of Vincent Chin in 1982,” said filmmaker Christine Choy. “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.”
“We knew who killed Vincent Chin, but the real question was why?” filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña added. “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?” 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 Dec. 31, 2021, over 10,ooo 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 U.S. 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.
“It’s such an honor to present ‘Who Killed Vincent Chin?’ again at this moment and especially on the heels of executive producer Juanita Anderson joining our board of directors,” said executive director of ‘American Documentary’ and executive producer of ‘POV’ Erika Dilday. “‘Who Killed Vincent Chin?’ is a watershed moment in filmmaking craft as well as in building and unifying an intersectional political project for the Asian American community. Now more than ever we can feel its resonance, and I’m so happy to make this essential work newly accessible to millions of viewers on PBS.”
“The brutal attack on Vincent Chin was a harrowing but significant incident in Detroit’s and America’s history,” said Rich Homberg, president and CEO of Detroit Public Television (DPTV). “This film is a moving testament to the loss of a young man’s life and to the people who stood up to protest this terrible injustice. It speaks volumes now more than ever about the wave of discrimination and violence against Asian Americans we continue to witness.
“The Library of Congress last year added the ‘Who Killed Vincent Chin?’ documentary to the National Film Registry as one of the most important films in America,” Homberg noted. “We are very pleased that POV and PBS will be airing it to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Vincent Chin tragedy as our nation reaffirms its commitment to social justice for all Americans in the hope that a horrible act such as this will not be repeated.”
In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Chin’s death, a series of “Remembrance & Rededication” activities organized in a partnership between the American Citizens for Justice, the Vincent and Lily Chin Estate, Detroit Public Television (DPTV), Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), and City of Detroit Arts and Culture (ACE) are scheduled to take place throughout the U.S. For more information on these events, visit VincentChin.org.
“Who Killed Vincent Chin?” is a co-presentation with Detroit Public Television (DPTV) and CAAM (Center for Asian American Media). Juanita Anderson (now on the board of American Documentary), Nancy Tong, Robert Larson are executive producers. Erika Dilday and Chris White are executive producers for “American Documentary” | “POV.”