Free Chol Soo Lee

83 mins.
Directed by Julie Ha, Eugene Yi
English and Korean
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Sun, 1/30

On June 3, 1973, a man was murdered in a busy intersection of San Francisco’s Chinatown as part of an ongoing gang war. Chol Soo Lee, a 20-year-old Korean immigrant who had previous run-ins with the law, was arrested and convicted based on flimsy evidence and the eyewitness accounts of white tourists who couldn’t distinguish between Asian features. Sentenced to life in prison, Chol Soo Lee would spend years fighting to survive behind bars before journalist K.W. Lee took an interest in his case. The intrepid reporter’s investigation would galvanize a first-of-its-kind pan-Asian American grassroots movement to fight for Chol Soo Lee’s freedom, ultimately inspiring a new generation of social justice activists.

Revisiting this pivotal yet largely forgotten story, filmmakers Eugene Yi and Julie Ha draw from a rich archive as well as firsthand accounts of those inspired to come to Lee’s defense. But even as FREE CHOL SOO LEE explores this miscarriage of justice, the film also reveals the man behind the cause, and the complex legacy—and human cost—of becoming the symbol of a movement.

Free Chol Soo Lee / U.S.A. / Documentary

Directors: Julie Ha, Eugene Yi

Producers: Su Kim, Jean Tsien, Sona Jo, Julie Ha, Eugene Yi

Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Grant Din.