“Free Chol Soo Lee” tells the story of a wrongfully convicted man who, after spending nearly a decade in prison, was finally found guilty in court.
But it’s not an uplifting film. As much as it celebrates the exoneration of its subject, a Korean immigrant to California named Chol Soo Lee, this documentary, directed by Julie Ha and Eugene Yi, looks at how the aftermath of failed justice unfolds. carry over to the rest of his life. . He also examines whether the expectations of those who helped him and his brief moment of stardom may have weighed on him. Just because Lee was innocent doesn’t mean he was perfect.
Born in 1952 during the Korean War, Lee was eventually taken by his mother to San Francisco. Having lived, according to the film’s narrative, somewhat aimlessly, he was convicted of a murder in 1973 in Chinatown. Persistent advocacy by KW Lee, an investigative reporter for The Sacramento Union, and a coalition of activists has drawn attention to significant flaws in the case. The process took years, and a separate death sentence case against Chol Soo Lee, for murder in a prison yard, only complicated matters.
“Free Chol Soo Lee” is inspired by Lee’s own words, read as narration by Sebastian Yoon, and the memories of his followers. The archival documents implicating KW Lee, who said he saw a “very fine line” between himself and the man he was covering, are particularly poignant. But “Free Chol Soo Lee” is a bit dry and, as criminal justice documentaries say, sadly familiar when it strays from Lee’s uniquely dark perspective, which includes details about his struggles with prison life and depression. In a voice-over passage, he describes death row as a system “designed so that the condemned kill himself before his execution.
Free Chol Soo Lee
Unclassified. In English and Korean, with subtitles. Duration: 1h23. In theaters.