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Painfully uncomfortable. Believe me, these days that description can be a nice method to bring out the qualities of a film. If I'm feeling such discomfort through a movie or a documentary than I can tell the director did a nice job. And in a project such as "Who Killed Vincent Chin" I don't think the concept was to leave audiences feeling nice about themselves or anything else. It makes us reflect on why hate crimes, or murders with futile reasoning happen and about the everlasting impact it causes on families, cultures and in this case, a minority. A summary of the happenings you're about to see: in 1982, Chinese American Vincent Chin was brutally murdered by two boys (father and stepson) in front of a strip club. Conflicted reports mention that a confusion ensued inside the club, soon on brought outside with both guys carrying baseball bats blaming Chin for taking over the jobs of Americans - back when Japanese auto companies were booming with their operations around the world, leaving no tournament to another nations' companies, and with that feeling in mind was that a Chinese boy was confused with a Japanese and killed because he was Asian. In the aftermath, the two men, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz (the first, a still employed auto company supervisor; the latter, recently fired), were charged with manslaughter only, the judge thinking that they didn't have the intention of killing, and they got 90 days of probation. The Asian community hit the media, protested and found methods to bring those two to court again - this time, for Civil Rights violation. And that's where the film leaves us in suspense to see how the final effect is gonna be, at the same time, it goes back and forth with the night of the murder. In between, there's a ferocious criticism of the American judicial system and its countless failures in dealing with the case. To leave you enraged!I need to go back to the painfully uncomfortable feeling which started this review. The greatness of this documentary is that the director follows all parts involved in the tragic murder of Vincent Chin, interviewing his grieving mother, his greatest friend, eyewitnesses of the confusion that led to Chin's murder, one juror of the last trial and also one of the perpetrators, acquitted again and again, barely spending time in jail. It's extremely hard to watch Mrs. Lily Chin in news reports and the film's interviews. You receive to see her unlimited pain through the years, sentences that start and hardly ever end due to her emotional state, and in that you can see the tragedy of a caring mother who lost her most precious life element, her son. You can see it, but you can't truly understand it unless you live it. The reactions you receive with her testimonies is one where you either pause the film to recompose yourself (one simply couldn't do that while in theaters) or you force yourself to see how it unfolds. But there's other thing that makes you more uncomfortable, an aspect more troubled and upsetting. And that is when Ronald Ebens is given the occasion to talk about his side of the storyline - his stepson appears once, only to smile and stay silent about anything. Ebens talks about how it all started, blaming Chin for things and going on the record to tell that his "manslaughter" situation wasn't a civil rights situation because he's not a racist - the film provides the true deal on how the technical test of words saved those two. The obstacle we as viewers receive with this guy, his wife and his loyal dumb mates is that every time they appear they talk about the situation as if it was just a minor incident that didn't cause any result on anyone. At no time, Ebens feels sorry about the crime, only admitting some regret a several years ago. Each time the Ebens squad popped on the screen, I got my eyes rolling. He gets to live comfortable and laughing while Mrs. Chin barely continued with her life, dealing with a large loss for almost 20 years. I won't blame directors Renee Tajima and Christine Choy for including the perpetrators in the film, it's interesting to have the perspectives from all sources involved, but allow us be honest, it's hard to watch those type of folks not paying for their crimes and sounding like a tiny thing just happened. Ebens and squad made a fool of themselves and in such a manner, it's embarrassing to watch. And with all that in mind, the challenge brought by the project made it more rewarding, gripping and intelligent. Tajima and Choy not only brings those aspects but they also take no part in the matter, no narrator and no biased intruders saying us who to help (gotta miss those old documentaries). One thing that now bothered me a lot was the repetitive inclusion of satisfied songs played here and there in the movie. Perhaps there's some irony behind such choice but not only it was distractive, unfitting for the entire thing, but above all, it felt disrespecting to Chin's memory. It might be extreme of me in telling that but I really think so. A loud cheerful song is used in the final credits right after a last interview with Mrs. Chin. It's just wrong.If interested in the topic, I recommend "Vincent Who?", a non-official follow-up to the happenings of this film, with a focus on how Vincent Chin's murder impacted the Asian American community in terms of mobilization, union and how their leaders acted and protested in related hate crimes. If I sound like a turmoil of mixed emotions about this film, you're not reading wrong. It was a turmoil but a hard-hitting and fascinating one. 9/10
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