Arrested at 16 and tried as an adult for kidnapping and robbery, Eddy Zheng served over 20 years in 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’: THE EDDY ZHENG STORY is a documentary feature about a Chinese immigrant who became the youngest prisoner at San Quentin State Prison and later one of the nation’s most recognized leaders on prison reform and youth violence prevention. Eddy entered the criminal justice system at 16 years old with limited understanding of the English language or the U.S. judicial system. After spending time in the California Youth Authority, he was transferred to San Quentin State Prison as soon as he turned 18. While in prison, Eddy learned English, earned his college degree, published his poetry, and transformed into a nationally recognized leader—inspiring youth, activists, and politicians on issues of prison reform and youth violence prevention. As an advocate for Ethnic Studies in the prison college curriculum, Eddy was sent to solitary confinement for 11 months, where he garnered support from community activists and leaders. Even as Eddy fought systemic injustices, he continued to fight an internal battle. Eddy had to reconcile with his family, for whom the shame and stigma of prison caused a lifetime of secrets and lies. Despite being released from immigration custody in 2007, Eddy was ordered deported to China due to changes in the immigration laws that were passed while he was incarcerated. With the looming possibility of deportation, Eddy must negotiate what it means to “live freely”—attempting to rebuild a family, reconcile with his victims, and make a lasting change in society at large.
Director/Producer: Ben Wang
Producer: Christine Kwon
Executive Producer: Deann Borshay Liem
Cinematographer: R.J. Lozada
Editor: Ken Schneider
Editorial Consultant: Tina Nguyen