Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Finding YingYing - 2020 LAAPFF Documentary Review

The Movie: Finding YingYing

The Director: Jiayan 'Jenny' Shi

The Story: After a young Chinese student goes missing on an American university campus, her family travels to the U.S. for the first time, hoping to unravel the mystery of her disappearance.

The Review:
A few years ago, I worked a job where I interacted with international students on a daily basis at a local community college and not once did it ever cross my mind that these young minds and bodies could in any sort of mortal danger as they went about their daily lives. Sure, there were safety precautions in place and information available for them about how to avoid danger but I never thought that something like what we see in this documentary could ever become a reality for them and I think because of that, this story really hit home for me.

Yingying's disappearance and subsequent investigation take place over a couple of year's time and director Jiayan Shi does a great job of showing the details of what took place as well as who Yingying is as a human being along with her family members as well. I imagine this must have been a challenging effort for Jiayan as she is also a student from China and must have seen a lot of herself in the young woman's story. There is a level of intimacy and care in the story telling which I feel must have come from that space and it works in a way that still doesn't sugar coat anything.

One of the things this documentary really speaks on is how ineffective our justice system can be and how it differs drastically from other countries for better and/or for worse. Her friends and family from China are definitely of the mind that more could have been done in certain areas of how Yingying's kidnapper had been tracked down and what was done or wasn't done to gather information on where she might be. The death penalty also becomes an interesting point of debate although none of these topics ever become the focus of the movie which is fine since it is more about the girl than anything else.

It was very interesting to learn who Yingying was, what her future could have held before she had been kidnapped, and what she meant to her family. Her parents really saw her as the future of the family and were depending on her in a lot of different ways to succeed in achieving her dreams. This function of family as a cohesive unit reminded me of the lessons taught about Chinese culture and family dynamics in movies like The Farewell and Saving Face and the differences when compared to American culture.

The Verdict:
Finding Yingying is a captivating documentary that will run you through every emotion you can think of. I hope her story can be an inspiring tale of caution for people to prevent these types of crimes from happening ever again.

"Life is too short to be ordinary" Yingying Zhang

To see more reviews, interviews, and festival coverage please go to: TwoOhSix at LAAPFF 2020.

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