"We hope somehow it can preserve her legacy"

The murder of Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang has been turned into a feature-length documentary.

26-year-old Yingying Zhang was last seen on at the University of Illinois on Friday 9 June. The FBI had since turned the investigation into an agency national priority.

It was later revealed that former PhD student Brendt Christensen raped, beat, tortured and decapitated Zhang in his apartment.

Last year, Christensen escaped the death penalty and was only given a life sentence.

To honour Zhang’s life, filmmaker Jiayan “Jenny” Shi has dedicated a documentary about the Chinese student.

Titled Finding Yingyingthe film offers more than just a true crime story.

“[Yingying] was really caring, brilliant and mature,” said Shi.

“We wanted to show the audience how much her life has touched others because I think at the very beginning, there were a lot of news coverage on the crime investigation and the perpetrator, but this film really wanted to highlight Yingying’s life, celebrate her life, and we hope somehow it can preserve her legacy,” she added.

Brent Huffman, a producer of the film, said the the documentary explores the clash between Chinese and American cultures.

“The film does explore these dramatically different perspectives, especially when it comes to the death penalty,” Huffman said.

“In China, hundreds of people can be put to death in one year and it can be an instantaneous thing without a trial … in the U.S., [the death penalty] is very complicated and extremely rare.”

Finding Yingying won the Breakthrough Voice award at the SXSW 2020 Film Festival and was screened at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and the San Diego Asian Film Festival.

This month, the film will be screened online through various events.