FINDING YINGYING

Directed by Jiayan "Jenny" Shi

Immediately after the feature, ticket holders can enjoy a pre-recorded bonus Q&A with director Jiayan “Jenny” Shi, producer Diane Quon, and cinematographer Shilin Sun!

Special Jury Recognition for Breakthrough Voice, 2020 SXSW Film Festival

In June 2017, Yingying Zhang, a Chinese visiting scholar, mysteriously vanished from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus six weeks after she arrived in the United States. Yingying’s disappearance sparked a two-year quest for answers that tested her family’s faith in a foreign criminal justice system. First-time filmmaker Jiayan “Jenny” Shi seamlessly blends her background in journalism and US and Chinese cultures to tell Yingying’s story with the empathy and nuance largely absent from media reports about the case. 

Shot as the case was unfolding, FINDING YINGYING offers an intimate perspective of the family’s anger, grief, and vulnerability as they travel to the US for reasons they never expected. While Yingying’s boyfriend fiercely leads search efforts long after others have stopped looking, her parents lay bare the pain of being separated from their only daughter. Even more powerfully, Yingying tells her own story from narrated diary entries full of hopes, fears, and dreams of her future.

In Shi’s thoughtful hands, FINDING YINGYING dives into the details of the case, not to spin true crime sensationalism, but to explore how much US universities depend on international student tuition and how little institutional support is provided to help students navigate culture shock, racial difference, and homesickness. FINDING YINGYING does not seek to answer all its questions but declares poignantly that separation cannot diminish devotion and urges us to contemplate the poignancy of Yingying’s words: “Life is too short to be ordinary.” 

–Malou Amparo Robas

Co-Presented by 21st Century China Center @ UC San Diego

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