脱钩Directed by Yinan Wang
Yinan and his wife Yujing are Chinese international students in Wisconsin. She’s working on her second master’s degree. He’s studying to be a filmmaker. When their child Wangwang is born in 2019, Yinan’s parents come from China to visit them, and Yinan’s camera captures the grandparents’ pride and joy. To give the young parents some space, the family decides to have Wangwang accompany her grandparents back to China. Yinan and Yujing will catch up with Wangwang via Facetime and photographs. It’ll be tough but temporary.
But then COVID happens. Travel becomes near impossible, especially under the strain of worsening U.S.-China relations. A temporary sojourn becomes a parent’s worst nightmare. Yinan’s parents send back photos of Wangwang’s first birthday. Everyone smiles for the camera as if worlds weren’t crumbling.
For Yinan, DECOUPLING is not just the documentary time capsule of a global pandemic. It’s also an essayistic reflection of multigenerational trauma. His own parents experienced the terrors of the Cultural Revolution, but left behind only smiling photos—smiles echoed in his own, as he waves to his daughter through an iPad, betraying his hurt. On the news, he hears of the word “decoupling,” which Steve Bannon uses aspirationally to describe the U.S.’s diplomatic distancing from China. The word haunts him, his binational family, and the video specter of a baby growing up thousands of miles away. Yinan encounters many such English words—strange, even threatening—and his attempts to understand them structure this striking and deeply moving documentary about finding the words to describe the unfathomable.