Documentary on U of Illinois Missing Scholar Now Available

A documentary about a University of Illinois scholar from China who was abducted and killed two years ago is now playing in virtual theaters.

Director Jiayan “Jenny” Shi said she wanted to turn the attention to Yingying Zhang and her family, given that much of the news coverage was about her disappearance, the investigation, her killer and the trial.

"From our perspective, we felt like Yingying’s story and her family’s stories were really lost,” Shi told The (Champaign-Urbana) News-Gazette.

Shi was a Northwestern University journalism graduate student when Zhang went missing in June 2017. For the documentary, she traveled to Zhang’s home in China, capturing her parents fighting and stressed over their daughter's search, internet rumors and delays in the trial.

Though Shi did not want to be in the film, after receiving criticism from some filmmakers that the movie could be seen as exploiting the family, she decided to become a part of the documentary and explain her connection to Zhang and her family.

“I’m hoping even for those in Urbana-Champaign, who already know a lot about the story, that they can find something new from this documentary,” Shi said.

The film has been played this year virtually at the Chicago International Film Festival and DOC NYC, among several others. It will also soon be played in China, where Zhang’s disappearance received even more attention than it did in the U.S.


For more information about streaming the film, visit

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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