Who Killed Vincent Chin? (1987)

November 19, 2010 at 12:28 am Leave a comment

Who Killed Vincent Chin? is a documentary film directed by Christine Choy and Renee Tajima-Pena. Tajima-Penais also the director of My America … or Honk if You Love Buddha (1997). She is the recipient of multiple awards and grants and is currently at UCSD now in the Communications Department. Choy is the chair of the Graduate Film and Television Department at the Tisch School of the Arts, NewYork University. The founding director of the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong, and she is also the recipient of numerous awards.

Nominated for the 1989 Academy Award for Best Documentary, Who Killed Vincent Chin was well received by critics and was an important achievement for Asian American filmmakers. It is a very different kind of documentary from ones like Fall of I-Hotel (1983) in that it avoids a linear, straightforward presentation of case. Instead we have to piece together an understanding of how and why Vincent Chin died over the course of the entire film. In the reading we did for class[1] the Bill Nichols described it as Nachträglichkeit, or “willing backwards”,

A viewing experience that suspends us in time, between past, present and future [… it] stands distinctly apart from the form of historical consciousness arising from classic realist representation with its sense of linear causality and teleological determination. Here, by contrast, the future remains unknowable but simultaneously up for grabs.

It tries to convey the complexity of an event and how it would be impossible to represent all of it with only the bits and pieces that could fit into an 82-minute film. The format forces audiences to go through the process of constructing a coherent narrative out of all the information for themselves.

The film stands out for not only it’s place in the history of Asian American documentaries, but also because of the Asian American activist organizing it documented. The group, American Citizens for Justice was organized as a direct result of the community outrage.

The Asian American community became a united front during the trails of Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, wanting them to be punished for the civil rights violation they took part in. Many Asian Ethnic organizations worked together on the case and helped to organize rallies and speeches nationwide held in honor of Vincent Chin and in the interest in finding the justice he deserved. The murder ands subsequent trials are considered by many to be the starting point for a pan-ethnic Asian American movement and the documentation of this historically important moment should be recognized and honored.

– Alexis and Rebecca

[1] Nichols, Bill. “Historical Consciousness and the Viewer: Who Killed Vincent Chin?” Screen Asian Americans. Ed. Peter X. Feng. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2002. 159-172.

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