Jeff Adachi’s last film, ‘Ricochet,’ to premiere at CAAMFEST 2021

The tragic 2015 death of Kate Steinle as she walked with her father on San Francisco’s Pier 14 became national news when it was revealed that the accused shooter was an undocumented immigrant, and then-presidential candidate Donald Trump exploited the case to rail against undocumented immigration and sanctuary cities.

If you believed Trump and the media, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the man accused of murder, did not stand a chance. His case was open and shut. Guilty as charged.

But in “Ricochet,” a documentary film directed by Jeff Adachi and Chihiro Wimbush, we get a dramatic, behind-the-scenes look at the team from the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office who investigated what happened and then defended Garcia Zarate in one of the most watched trials of the decade.

“Ricochet” (2021, 78 min.) will have its world premiere at CAAMFEST 2021 at a live virtual screening May 22 at 3 p.m. PDT. In the film, we meet Matt Gonzalez, chief attorney of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, who is assigned to the case, and Francisco Ugarte, managing attorney of their Immigration Defense Unit.

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We also meet Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who oversees Gonzalez, Ugarte and the defense team as they use analysis of video evidence, forensic science and witnesses to build their case that Steinle’s death was an accident. That she was in fact killed by a bullet — fired into the ground by Garcia Zarate — that ricocheted off the pavement, flew 80 feet and struck Steinle in the back.

As Trump continued to tweet, the defense — despite being frequently attacked by hate mail — slowly built their evidence and in 2017, the case went to trial. On all three counts, Garcia Zarate was found not guilty by the jury.

“Ricochet” was part of a trio of films Adachi and Wimbush had been working on about the criminal justice system and public defenders. When Adachi passed away suddenly in 2019, co-director Wimbush made it his mission to complete “Ricochet.”

“I wanted to honor Jeff’s work — as public defender and filmmaker,” said Wimbush. “And because the themes of the film still feel vital today: failings of our justice system, gun violence in our society, false messaging from politicians and media, and the debate around immigration in our country. It’s an important story to tell to add to our national conversation around these issues.”

With the blessing of Adachi’s widow, Mutsuko, Wimbush went to work to honor Adachi’s legacy and the public defenders’ work.

“The heart of the film is really the public defenders fighting for an innocent man, against these powerful headwinds from the media and from Trump,” said Wimbush.

If not for Adachi and his defense team, Wimbush believes Garcia Zarate could have easily been framed for a crime he didn’t commit.

“Part of Jeff Adachi’s legacy is creating a robust team of public defenders who fight for those who have no one else to defend them,” said Wimbush. “Ricochet aims to illustrate what a vital role they play as a counterbalance to the often uneven scales of the justice system.”

To RSVP for the “Ricochet” virtual screening, visit: https://caamfest.com/2021/movies/ricochet/.

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