On November 12, 2022, members of AABANY went to see “Photographic Justice: The Corky Lee Story,” which had its world premiere at the DOC NYC festival at the SVA Theatre. Thank you to Board Member and Issues Committee Chair Chris Kwok for organizing this event.
The film documented Corky Lee’s life and career as the “undisputed unofficial Asian American Photographer Laureate.”
Corky was a long time photographer for various AABANY events including our Annual Dinner, and a beloved friend to many AABANY members. Past AABANY member Lily Fan was one of the executive producers. AABANY members Rocky Chin and Kevin Hsi and past AABANY member Hon. Randall Eng appeared in the film.
Those from AABANY who attended uniformly gave the film an enthusiastic thumbs up. We were pleased to see AABANY listed among the community groups that Corky Lee worked with during his decades of photo-activism. We highly recommend everyone to see the film.
On September 29, 2022, Fordham Law School Professor Thomas H. Lee and 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Denny Chin presented a screening of the documentary “Free Chol Soo Lee” at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus. Professor Lee currently co-chairs AABANY’s Academic Committee. Judge Chin served as AABANY’s President from 1992 to 1993.
Judge Chin and Professor Lee hosted the screening in collaboration with Fordham Law School’s Center on Asian Americans and the Law. Judge Chin, Kathy Hirata Chin, Professor Thomas H. Lee, and other Fordham faculty members worked together to establish this new center earlier in 2022. The Center on Asian Americans and the Law is dedicated to promoting public education on the legal history of AAPIs, serving as a research hub for AAPI legal issues, and coordinating public advocacy and outreach efforts through law firms, corporations, and the public to advance justice for the AAPI community as a whole.
The 2022 documentary “Free Chol Soo Lee,” by Julie Ha and Eugene Yi, tells the story of the pan-Asian, grassroots movement which mobilized in the ‘70s and ‘80s to assist Chol Soo Lee, a Korean immigrant who was wrongfully convicted for the 1973 murder of San Francisco Chinatown resident Yip Yee Tak. “Free Chol Soo Lee” follows the formation of the defense committee which came to Lee’s aid, along with the efforts of community members and attorneys who worked tirelessly to free Lee from prison.
After the movie screening, Professor Thomas H. Lee held a Q&A session with Judge Chin. Judge Chin first spoke to the grim ending of the documentary, which covers the post-release struggles which faced Chol Soo Lee in his adjustment to freedom. Judge Chin noted that, “In recent years, a lot of re-entry courts have popped up. We started a re-entry court [The RISE Court] in the Southern District of New York in 2019 …. It’s such a terrific program. We had our second session of this group just yesterday, and we had three graduates talk to these guys [the enrollees of the current RISE Court cohort presided over by Judge Chin]. We’re up to five RISE courts in the New York City area.” Judge Chin stressed the important role which systems of support must play even after a person has been released from prison.
Professor Lee capped off the event by asking Judge Chin a question geared towards law students and practicing attorneys: “How can law students and lawyers get involved [in issues of wrongful conviction such as that in the documentary]?”
Judge Chin responded by reflecting on the effects of the movement around Chol Soo Lee on Asian American communities: “The real positive for this was the community. Ranko [Yamada] went to law school. Jeff Adachi became pretty high up in the legal field. Many of them [individuals involved with the defense committee for Chol Soo Lee] were inspired to go to law school…I think the law gives you tools to do a lot of different things. But whatever you do, you find some way to give back…For example, [trial] reenactments with AABANY, which have proven to be a great educational tool…Whether you realize it, lawyers do have power. When you’re learning the trade, you’re really learning how to make a change.”
Judge Chin’s reference to AABANY’s trial reenactments recalls AABANY’s Trial Reenactment Team performing “Alice in Chinatown: Chol Soo Lee and His Fight for Freedom” at the 2018 NAPABA convention in Chicago. AABANY’s Trial Reenactment Team has scripted and performed scripted a number of other famous cases such as “Korematsu v. United States,” and the trial following the murder of Vincent Chin. Anticipating the foundational mission of Fordham Law School’s Center on Asian Americans and the Law, the AABANY Trial Reenactment Project was created to educate audiences about Asian American contributions to the development of American law and society.
We are grateful to Judge Chin and Professor Lee for hosting this film screening, and thank Fordham Law School’s Center on Asian Americans and the Law for organizing this event.
Join a Town Hall on Thursday, April 8, 2021 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm featuring selections from the documentary film Down a Dark Stairwell just days before the national April 12th PBS premiere on Independent Lens.
The roundtable conversation among national community leaders will explore the themes of the film and the broader cultural and historical context of today’s tragic headlines. The roundtable will be moderated by celebrated author Jeff Chang and will feature panelists Cynthia Choi (Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action), Robeson Taj Frazier (Associate Professor of Communication, USC Annenberg), Hua Hsu (Staff Writer, The New Yorker and Associate Professor of English, Vassar College), Bo Thao-Urabe (Executive Director, Coalition of Asian American Leaders), and Down a Dark Stairwell filmmaker Ursula Liang.
The film follows the events that occurred after Peter Liang, a Chinese American police officer, shot and killed an innocent, unarmed black man named Akai Gurley in the dark stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project in 2014. It examines the aftermath of the shooting, and how it thrust two marginalized communities into the uneven criminal justice system together. AABANY Issues Committee Chair Chris Kwok appears in the film.
For more information about the Town Hall and to register for this event, click here.
On March 3rd, 2021, AABANY Board Director, Asia Practice Committee Co-Chair, and Issues Committee Chair Chris Kwok was invited to visit Spike Lee at his production site in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Known for his movie Do The Right Thing (1989), Director Spike Lee is in the process of filming an eight hour documentary to capture New York’s resiliency from 9/11 to Covid-19. For the upcoming documentary, Spike Lee interviewed over 200 people and wanted to interview Chris to speak about the Asian American community in New York.
For Chris, Spike Lee has been a part of his life since high school. Do The Right Thing was Spike Lee’s magnum opus—the movie illustrated race relations between Italians, Blacks, and Asians in New York. In one iconic scene, a riot breaks out and as the Blacks move on to destroy the Korean bakery after burning down the Italian pizzeria, the owner of the bakery tells them, “You, me, same.” The Koreans and Blacks are on the same side and as an assertive African American filmmaker about racial justice, Spike Lee understood that at the time. Through his many projects, Spike Lee has recognized the Asian American community and sees Asian Americans as part of the fabric of New York. That stood out to Chris and his friends in high school.
Spike Lee is iconic but also very personal. “He is including us and we should know more about African Americans and their culture. They have always been inclusive to us, and we should know their path in history,” said Chris. “BLM and fighting anti-Asian violence is the same fight. You don’t have to choose one over the other because it’s the manifestation of structural racism and the effort to dismantle it.” Chris’ comments reflect the message of Do The Right Thing. Asian Americans and African Americans need to be united and Spike Lee highlights that by writing “BLM + AABANY Brothers and Sista’s” in an autographed Do The Right Thing sign he presented to Chris at the interview (see image above).
Spike Lee’s new documentary “NYC Epicenters 9/11→ 2021½” is scheduled to be released later this year on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max.
Jeff Adachi, the Sam Francisco Public Defender and filmmaker who passed earlier this year has been a pioneer in the justice system and API cinema. To celebrate his legacy, two of his documentaries will be shown, along with a tribute by Corey Tong and John Woo before the screening.
Seadrift follows the story of what begins as a dispute over fishing territory into an eruption of violence and hostility against Vietnamese refugees along the gulf coast. Seadrift examines a shooting of a white crab fisherman by a Vietnamese refugee, and its aftermath, which continues to reverberate today.
Shorts: Identities is a series of eight documentary shorts which all tackle the question: “What does it mean to be Asian, to be a part of the Asian Diaspora?” These shorts confirm that there is no singular answer to this question, and cover topics as wide-ranging as Cambodian doughnut shops (Doughnuts for Dollars) to the young Harvard student who started the non-profit, PERIOD org (Period Girl).
The screening for A Tribute to Jeff Adachi will be held at the Museum of Chinese in America, while the Shorts: Identities and Seadrift screenings will be held at Regal Essex, Theater B.
Please click the links to register and learn more about the films. AABANY members will receive a discount code once they register for the event on the AABANY website.
On Thursday, April 11, AABANY hosted a screening of “Blowin’ Up,” a feature documentary that explores the complex realities of sex work in New York City and the compassionate approach of a human trafficking court in Queens County. The film features AABANY member Honorable Toko Serita, Queens Supreme Court, as well as other heroines of the Human Trafficking Intervention Court, that work with victims of sexual exploitation who face prostitution-related charges.
After the screening, Beatrice Leong, AABANY Government Service and Public Interest Committee Co-Chair, led a panel discussion featuring speakers from the NYPD/FBI Joint Human Trafficking Task Force and a Queens Assistant District Attorney who prosecutes human traffickers. The panelists talked about how they worked together to prosecute the traffickers and how one can identify and help a suspected trafficking victim. The panel gave important insight into how gangs and traffickers target their victims, and the audience learned that many victims are new immigrants, local high school students or children in the foster care system. “Drugs can only be used once, but a person can be used over and over.”
We thank Beatrice Leong and Emily Arakawa for providing the photos and write-up for this blog post.
SUNDANCE SELECTS presents KAMPAI! FOR THE LOVE OF SAKE IN THEATERS & ON DEMAND AUGUST 19TH
Opening in New York at the IFC CENTER
Discover the art of sake. An age-old staple of Japanese culture and cuisine, the fermented rice wine has recently been winning fans all over the world. Kampai! For the Love of Sake journeys from rice paddies in Japan to breweries around the globe as it chronicles three passionate exponents of the increasingly popular beverage: a British ex-pat who has become Japan’s first foreign master brewer, an American journalist known as the “Sake Evangelist,” and a fifth-generation Japanese brewer determined to shake up the industry. Together, their stories form a fascinating snapshot of how ancient traditions are adapting to the demands of a growing global market.
WORLD PREMIERE Attending NYC’s elite public schools – Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech – can set students up for future success, but first they have to beat the odds to claim a coveted spot. Each year, middle-school students pin all of their hopes on a single test: the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT). But issues of racial diversity persist, calling into question the apparent even playing field the SHSAT provides. Tested explores questions of access as it follows a group of students preparing for the test.
For a list of showtimes and ticket information, please CLICK HERE.