Director’s Statement
Iris K. Shim

I first met Andrew in 2000 as he was serving the 6th year of his 100-year prison term. A friend of mine had developed a pen-pal relationship with him over the last year and decided that she wanted to meet him in person. It was her first visit to a prison, and because she didn’t want to go alone, I accompanied her.

Perhaps it was the nervousness of being in a completely different environment, our wide-eyed naiveté, or a combination of both, but we were astonished by the man who we would meet. Andrew was charming, funny, articulate, and incredibly intelligent. Yet, he was also a man with the capacity to wait 4 hours with a loaded gun, and shoot another person with the intention of killing him. Despite the weight of the latter, it was the former persona that left an indelible impression. As a friendship developed over the years, I came to know his story well.

When the case of Andrew and Catherine Suh broke in the early 90’s, it captured a national audience by receiving coverage on America’s Most Wanted, Psychic Detectives, and was even dramatized as a made-for-television film, Bad to the Bone. However, in all the various reiterations of this story, two things remained the same: Catherine was cast as the protagonist—an eccentric, evil, manipulative sister—while Andrew was the loyal, model student coerced into committing murder. While superficially these elements did hold some truth, the sensational crime story missed what was really at the core of this tragic family story. As a Korean-American, it was a story that struck a personal chord with me, and I wanted to give it a comprehensive treatment that the other media coverage seemed to painfully lack.

After college, I had been working in Los Angeles. But in the winter of 2005, I relocated to Chicago, and with Andrew’s blessing, began filming what would become The House of Suh. My intention was to shoot for three months, take the footage back to Los Angeles for editing, and have a final cut by the end of the year. Four and a half years later, the final edit was made.

When I started the film, I thought I had already learned everything there was to know about Andrew’s story. But as the months and years went on, there always seemed to be another important player to track down and interview, who would then unveil a different side to the story. I was also confronted by the fact that I was no longer just “Iris the friend” to Andrew, but also “Iris the filmmaker”. Making the film became a dynamic process that forced me to juggle my own beliefs and morality. Luckily, my producing team—Gerry Kim, Joseph Lee, and Pawel Grajnert—acted as the counterbalance and gave me the much needed perspective throughout the project.

As the filmmakers behind this project, our goal was to strip away the sensationalism and examine the internal conflicts that broke down the Suh household. Using the Suh story as a framework, larger themes are explored, such as cultural assimilation, traditional family roles and values, the relativity of justice and the deep divide between freedom and responsibility.

11 Comments


  1. Anthony
    Mar 30, 2010

    Congratulations on Completing this project Iris. I don’t know if you still remember me, this is Anthony from NYFA film school. This was 5 long years in the making for you, glad to see it get picked up. Can’t wait to see it on the festival circuit. I hope you win tons of awards with this.


  2. Kathleen
    Apr 26, 2010

    Hi Iris! This is your old friend Kathleen from grammar school. Congratulations on such a great project! You’re incredibly talented! I guess all those video projects we did in elementary/middle school were not all for naught! :)


  3. DAN KANES
    Apr 28, 2010

    Congratulations and great work!!!


  4. Dave
    Dec 15, 2010

    i thought it was an excellent film that allowed the greater issues of the korean-american experience to surface and be exposed, and his provoked thoughts about it repeatedly ever since I watched it. Thank you for your work.


  5. Bill
    Jul 18, 2011

    Just saw the film on TV. This certainly does not excuse Andrew’s part in the crime, but it goes a long way in understanding the human family dynamic. Especially with Asian culture. What a conflicted young man he was back then. The presentation really hit home with his concept of doing right by his family in the way he was raised. A tragedy for all involved. A tortured story, but one that is relevant and needs to be shown. Bravo!


  6. Irma Casillas
    Jul 18, 2011

    I saw the repport on the MSNBC channel about Andrew Suh. I can’t wait to see movie. I feel sorry for him because he too was a VICTIM. So much to give & so much to loose. His sister on the other hand is evil & cold hearted, for her to respond to him in the way that she did only proves that it was all about what she wanted. She cared for no one but herself. Tell him I will pray for him that someday he will find peace & be able to fly free as a bird. May the good Lord have mercy on his soul.


  7. Ginny Granger
    Dec 04, 2011

    A great documentary, bringing true understanding to the the sequence of events. What a truly tragic story! My heart is bleeding for Andrew. I hope he is getting a degree or two while in prison, and when he enters the world outside, I hope he finds love and happiness. If there is anything one could do to ease his pain, I would be willing to help.


  8. piku
    Dec 04, 2011

    Great docu and you should be very proud of your award winning (hopefully, it deserves it) work here. Just watched it yesterday on MSNBC, when I was bored at home, flipping thru the boob tube not expecting to find anything worthy to watch. Boy, was I mistaken and immediately riveted by this story.

    Questions: Obviously, Catherine did not want to be interviewed for her central role in manipulating all of these people. Have officials found that Catherine was involved in her mother’s murder, either as a participant or coerced her boyfriend to commit the murder (what is the status of that investigation/case)? After all, she did tell Andrew at that fateful dinner, that Robert committed the murder. And most importantly, why didn’t Andrew see the forest through the trees and understand that his sister was pulling the strings so to speak, here? I understand he was under her spell but that is something I wish was more flushed out in this incredible and incredibly portrayed story.


  9. maurine
    Dec 07, 2011

    I came in late to the program on December 3, but was immediately riveted. Very well done film and very compelling. I am still unsure as to whether or not Robert really killed the mother. Is there actual evidence to point to this? I however, can see Catherine being involved so maybe she did manipulate Robert into killing mom. From when Catherine walked into father’s room after he died and then just left–that seemed to signal something was off with her. Andrew seems to be a very articulate, educated man. It’s a shame he couldn’t break free from Catherine, but he seems to harbor deep familial devotion, even though it is not returned or earned. Very sad story for all involved.


  10. pat
    Feb 12, 2012

    If Andrew is looking for a pen pal,I’d be happy to sign up. Does he need donations? How can we help with getting him an appeal?


  11. Pat
    Feb 16, 2012

    How can I write to him? Would love to offer him support and some assistance if I can.

    Love your work.

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