On PBS’ Unfiltered Blog, Director Ben Wang writes candidly about meeting Eddy, the challenges of the filmmaking process, and the world premiere screening at San Quentin State Prison.
We are thrilled to share that Breathin’: the Eddy Zheng Story will have its public television premiere on May 23 (World Channel)! The film will also be available to stream on the PBS website and app for free. There is new (brief) footage included in this version, too. Much love and thanks to everyone who has helped make the film possible over the past 7 years!
Over the past 7 months, we have had almost 30 screenings of Breathin’—at film festivals, museums, conferences, Universities, and at San Quentin. We are so grateful to all of our hosts, partners, and collaborators. The tremendous response motivates us to continue sharing Eddy’s story with a nationwide audience.
Next up, we have screenings in Oakland, Charlotte, Austin, San Diego, Atlanta, and Philadelphia! Please help us spread the word!
- October 28th, 5:00PM, Oakland, Eastside Arts Alliance
- November 2nd, 5:00PM, University of North Carolina-Charlotte
- November 5th, 6:30pm, Austin Asian American Film Festival
- November 5th, 8:35pm, San Diego Asian Film Festival
- November 12th, 1:45PM, Facing Race Conference in Atlanta
- November 19th, 4:30pm, Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival
Thanks for all your love, encouragement, and support!
New song by Bambu x Chops for BREATHIN’: THE EDDY ZHENG STORY!
(Featured in credits sequence of the documentary)
All footage in this video are deleted scenes from the documentary. A couple notes on footage to share:
(0:19): Eddy kept almost every letter he received while incarcerated. During one film shoot, he showed us these treasured items–pulling out boxes upon boxes from his closet. The letters (and the community support they represent) made a huge impact on Eddy’s survival, social/political development, and ultimate freedom.
(0:36): Eddy visits the resting place for his Grandparents. Eddy lived with his grandparents when he first came to the U.S., but was not able to have a relationship with them after he went to prison. In this scene, Eddy is able to pay his respects to them (making an exquisite flower bouquet), and reflect on his family’s secret of his incarceration.
A HUGE THANKS to all our supporters at the WORLD PREMIERE of Breathin’ at CAAMFest! We not only had three shows–at the Alamo Drafthouse in SF and The New Parkway in Oakland–but we sold out all three screenings! It was very special to premiere the film with friends and family, supporters and donors, and the vibrant community that has lifted up Eddy’s story and this documentary film project for over five years. Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and support!
It was a huge honor to win the AUDIENCE AWARD for Documentary Feature. Thank you to everyone who came to the screenings and voted!
Breathin’ was also awarded the Honorable Mention in the Documentary Competition by the CAAMFest Jury.
“We are compelled to give an Honorable Mention award to Breathin’: The Eddy Zheng Story, directed by Ben Wang, for its celebration of Eddy Zheng’s resilience, strength, and transformation while exposing deep flaws in our criminal justice and immigration systems. An honest portrait of a man struggling to reconcile his past criminal actions with the role model and community activist he has become, the film deftly interweaves the story of Eddy’s journey from prison with humor and pathos making it evident that his is a story that needs to be shared.” – CAAM Documentary Competition Jury
Athough the official World Premiere of Breathin’: The Eddy Zheng Story is on March 11 at CAAMFest, the Asian Prisoner Support Committee and I organized a special preview screening on February 29—at San Quentin State Prison. The screening was hosted by the San Quentin ROOTS program, a weekly class modeled after an Asian American Studies/Ethnic Studies curriculum that documentary subject Eddy Zheng helped co-found. ROOTS is one of the few programs in the nation that addresses the specific experiences of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) prisoners through cultural empowerment and community building activities.
Given that a significant amount of footage was filmed at San Quentin and includes the voices of currently incarcerated individuals, screening the film at the prison was very important to me as a director, and the film’s crew. As far as I know, this is the first documentary film screening about an API subject to be held at San Quentin.
About 75 incarcerated individuals joined us for the early afternoon screening. The crowd was a diverse mix of ethnicities with roots from China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, the Philippines, Hawaii, Samoa, Nicaragua, Mexico, parts of Africa, and many more places. Many of the audience members have stories that mirror Eddy’s—juveniles charged as adults, families who hid their incarceration as a secret, and “lifers” who have been denied parole countless times.
Once inside the prison, a projector displayed the movie onto a small screen at the front of the chapel, with rows of men sitting in the pews. The audience was particularly enthusiastic—laughing, nodding, and cheering throughout the screening. The loudest cheers came when Lee, Kam, Thongsy—all API inmates still in San Quentin—and others were given their cameos on screen.
As the film ended, the audience gave us a standing ovation. Many of the men greeted me with smiles, handshakes, and heartfelt congratulations. As expected, the Q&A after the screening was unique and engaging. The audience members expressed how strongly they could identify with Eddy’s struggles and appreciated his journey to change, grow, and evolve as a person. One of the questions explored Eddy’s process of letting go of the prison mindset—and even being okay to wear blue jeans again after his release, as blue clothes are the prisoners’ daily uniforms. Another question reflected on the thin line between maintaining hope against all odds and “lying to yourself”—a dilemma that many of the audience members face on a daily basis, especially the “lifers.”
As Breathin’ premieres at CAAMFest and embarks on many more festival and community screenings, I am forever grateful for the thoughtful, engaging, and warm reception we received at San Quentin.
We hope to share more photos later – from inside the prison of the screening
I am proud to announce the World Premiere of Breathin’: the Eddy Zheng Story at CAAMFest 2016. We received two very good screening times: Fri, March 11, 6:30pm at the Alamo Drafthouse in SF (capacity 320) and Sat, March 19, 8:10pm at The New Parkway in Oakland (capacity 140). Tickets available NOW on CAAM’s website.
CAAMFest Description: Arrested at 16 and tried as an adult for kidnapping and robbery, Eddy Zheng served over 20 years in state prison. Ben Wang’s BREATHIN’: THE EDDY ZHENG STORY paints an intimate portrait of Eddy — the prisoner, the immigrant, the son, the activist — on his journey to freedom, rehabilitation and redemption. BREATHIN’ moves with a deep, critical love, unafraid in confronting the hard truths of Eddy’s crime, the harsh realities of mass incarceration and the intertwined emotional hardships experienced by all involved. The film finds Eddy at many crossroads — in and out of parole hearings, organizing in the community, othered and at risk of deportation — his resilience and astounding compassion resounding throughout. In chronicling Eddy’s decades-long struggle for freedom, the film interrogates the complexities and hypocrisies of crime and punishment in the United States, raising the greater question: For whom are prisons for? — Andrew Yeung
Co-presented by: Chinese for Affirmative Action & Asian Prisoner Support Committee