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Free Chol Soo Lee

Opens on January 30

Director: Eugene Yi, Julie Ha Run Time: 92 min.


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.

The short Chilly and Milly will be screened in front of Free Chol Soo Lee.

Directed by William David Caballero. Exploring the director’s father’s chronic health problems, as a diabetic with kidney failure, and his mother’s role as his eternal caretaker. A combination of 3D-modeled/composited characters, with cinema verité scenes from a documentary shot over 13 years ago.

Following the film screening please stay for a virtual Q&A that was recorded on January 24 with three community organizers who discuss how the film Free Chol Soo Lee connects to the work they are doing individually and through their organizations on behalf of North Carolinians.

Ricky Leung – Ricky is co-founder and Program Director at NCAAT. Ricky grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, and studied journalism and mass communication at UNC-Chapel Hill, concentrating in visual communication and design. He began his career in DC at National Geographic and at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. Ricky returned to North Carolina in 2010 in hopes of bringing that Asian Amerian experience to his home state and worked at NC Policy Watch, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center, before joining NCAAT fulltime.
Tai Little – Tai is an abolitionist, organizer, movement Mama, and community advocate from the Southeast. She is seeking an end to carceral colonial systems by way of providing love, care and resources to impacted communities. Tai currently works with SEAC Village which works to amplify a voice for the quickly growing Asian American population in the Carolinas.
Felicia Arriaga – Felicia is a Visiting Research Scholar at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs teaching Race, Power, & Inequality and Race & Public Policy and a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Sociology in the criminology concentration at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. She is also the North Carolina Statewide Police Accountability Network Coordinator–a project of the Black Leadership & Organizing Collective.

Watch panel discussion here:



a/perture appreciates the following local sponsors and supporters of a/perture | Sundance Satellite Screen:

Flow Acura

Blanco Tackabery, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Raffaldini Vineyards

The Arts Council of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County

Rabbit Hole Distillery

The Trophy Room

Hotel Indigo

Gas Hill @ The Ramkat

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