Chicago crew take SXSW Jury Prize for ‘Finding Yingying’


Feature documentary, Finding Yingying has been awarded the SXSW 2020 Documentary Feature Special Jury Prize for Breakthrough Voice. 

Produced by Kartemquin FilmsFinding Yingying is Chicago-based filmmaker Jiayan “Jenny” Shi’s debut feature documentary. The film follows the story of the Zhang family who, in the summer of 2017, travel to the United States from China in search of their missing 26-year old daughter. Principle photography took place from Summer 2017 to Fall 2019 giving director Jenny Shi enough time to create an engrossing film going beyond the mystery of Yingying’s disappearance.

Jenny explains her approach to the film and why it’s important to her:

“It was critical to me that the focus of the film not be about the crime and Yingying’s death. Instead the focus is on Yingying’s life and the resilience of the people who where left behind after the tragedy. As a former international student, I experienced many of  the same feelings that Yingying had – balancing my ambition and determination, while fighting my loneliness as I tried to overcome language barriers and culture shock. I hope this will help to build understanding and break the stereotypes many have of the “Chinese international student.”

“Most importantly, as a young woman, I wanted to show how strong Yingying was as a person in a cultural context where female victims are usually dehumanized.”

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The film also has an impressive crew consisting of producer Diane Moy Quon (Minding the Gap) and Brent E. Huffman (Saving Mes Aynak). 

Producer Diane May Quon believed in the film from the beginning:

“I was impressed by Jenny’s take on the film because it’s not a typical true crime story. With her careful approach I knew that Jenny could turn this film into something special and do right by Yingying’s family. We loved working with Kartemquin and the Chicago film community and appreciate all of their input and support.”

Periscope Post & Audio provided the color and audio for the film. Head of business development Kamelya Alexan describes their excitement for landing the project:

Finding Yingying was a perfect opportunity to work with Diane Quon, who is a very respected producer in the Chicago film community. It was privilege to bring such a meaningful project to Chicago and Periscope.”

Finding Yingying was one of the many films set to screen at SXSW this month but, was sadly cancelled due to the unfortunate, global pandemic. Receiving rave reviews across the board, director Jiayan “Jenny” Shi will be a filmmaker to keep on your radar.

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For more information on the film including case updates and future screenings please visit their website at: Finding Yingying  

Brian Soszynski is a contributing writer for Reel Chicago who will be covering Chicago Production Central every Monday.