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Robert O'dubaine (#110 of 1)

San Diego Asian Film Festival 2010: House of Suh and Tibet in Song

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San Diego Asian Film Festival 2010: <em>House of Suh</em> and <em>Tibet in Song</em>
San Diego Asian Film Festival 2010: <em>House of Suh</em> and <em>Tibet in Song</em>

House of Suh (Iris Shim, 2010). Much like John Kastner’s masterful crime documentary Life With Murder, Iris Shim’s House of Suh looks into the eyes of a young murderer and finds an evolving mystery yet to be solved. Both nonfiction films unfold like great thrillers, revealing key information slowly and deliberately at crucial parts of the story. But each consistently considers the layers of human trauma under investigation, exploring the hidden evil lurking just behind the memories and reflections of various talking heads. The title of the film refers to Andrew and his sister Catherine Suh, first generation Korean American siblings who were both convicted of planning and executing the murder of Catherine’s boyfriend Robert O’Dubaine in Chicago on September 25, 1993. Shim begins the film with a brilliantly precise family tree of all parties comprised of intricate animated etchings—connecting these characters on a superficial level only to reveal later on how fragile those links are in truth. Interviews with Andrew (now serving a 100-year sentence in federal prison), other Suh family members, O’Dubaine’s brother Kevin Koran, and various lawyers from each side make up the core analysis of the film, and Shim’s calculated layering of perspectives allows this seemingly open and closed case to grow more complex and insidious. “My identity is the one Catherine developed for me,” Andrew states late in the film, confounding the audience’s perception of his guilt even in the face of obvious misconduct. Despite all the procedural jargon and psychological analysis, House of Suh has a dark neo-noir heart pumping deception, betrayal, blackmail, and manipulation through the narrative with sly precision and unflinching honesty. It’s a devastating example of the American dream hollowed out by the rot of tradition and expectation. Hilariously, the devastating true story was notoriously remade into an all-Anglo television movie, as if the crime itself was okay to represent but the fact that the perpetrators were Asian was off limits.