Eternals Director Chloe Zhao To Executive Produce Series About The Murder Of Vincent Chin

Fresh off her entry into the MCU with Marvel's "Eternals," writer-director Chloé Zhao is bringing one of the most important American civil rights sagas to the small screen. Zhao joins Participant's limited series (with Global TV SVP Miura Kite supervising under the Participant label), on the killing of Vincent Chin, as an executive producer.

The series, which is being developed in tandem with the Chin estate and its executor, Helen Zia, is the "authorized" account of the landmark case and cultural impact following the beating murder of Chin, a Chinese-American citizen. The "Nomadland" director executive produces alongside Zia, Vicangelo Bulluck, Paula Madison, and Donald Young. Notably, Zia is a former autoworker-turned-journalist/activist (Chin was an engineering draftsman, but his killers were disgruntled autoworkers) as well as the spokesperson for the Justice for Vincent Chin Campaign. Zia released a statement voicing her excitement at the chance to have Zhao in the director's chair:

"Chloé Zhao has the vision and sensitivity to unpack the complexities of racism, hate, violence and injustice. We are eager for Chloé's insights into the multilayered story of Vincent Chin, who was killed in Detroit as it faced economic collapse, where Asian immigrants were unwelcome yet struggled for legitimacy, where masculinity and homophobia added to the toxic brew of communities in conflict–and where people came together to fight for the humanity of Vincent and all people. We can't overstate how enthused we are that Chloé Zhao has joined our project."

An Explosive Story

Vincent Chin's death resulted in a trial and significant fallout which became the centerpiece for an Asian-American civil rights movement push in the early 1980s. At the time, Detroit was an epicenter for the seismic growth in anti-Asian sentiment due to the national car industry setbacks that impacted Detroit immensely and the simultaneous rise of Japan's auto industry.

On June 19, 1982, Chin was at the strip club Fancy Pants Bar celebrating his bachelor party as he was to be married in four days. A confrontation ensued between Chin and two white men, Chrysler plant supervisor Ronald Ebens and his stepson, Michael Nitz, who had recently been laid off from the auto industry. The men held resentment over Japan's automotive domination at the time, and because they bought into the old white supremacist line about non-whites stealing their jobs, Chin became the focus of their ire. Witnesses testified that the pair uttered several racist slurs as they beat Vincent within an inch of his life. Chin sat in a coma for four days before being pronounced dead of his injuries at Henry Ford Hospital. 

Ebens and Nitz reportedly assumed Chin, who is of Chinese descent, to be Japanese because racists are also often stupid. They were held as responsible as you would imagine white men charged with hate crimes would be in 1982: after whittling their charges down from second-degree murder to manslaughter, the pair pleaded guilty in 1983, decades before effective federal hate crime legislation would pass. They served no jail time for taking Chin's life. They were put on probation. They were ordered to pay $3,000, plus garnished income from the civil suit that would follow. Both the killing and the lack of adequate repercussions for the assailants led to collective outrage across North America and its Asian-American communities in particular. 

Chin's estate grants exclusive access to Zhao and her team to tell the story properly, and tell it well.

"I was deeply moved by Helen's personal connection to Vincent's story as well as her incredibly insightful and nuanced perspective on this difficult yet inspiring story," Zhao says. "I'm very honored to join the team and to embark on this journey together."