'We still had hope:' UWM lecturer's movie about his Chinese immigrant experience to air at Milwaukee Film Fest

’We still had hope: ’ UWM lecturer’s movie about his Chinese immigrant experience to air at Milwaukee Film Fest

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- By day, Yinan Wang is a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, teaching classes about film and cinematography.

By night, he's a doting husband and a father to his five-year-old daughter.

And in between, he's an award-winning filmmaker, whose dining room table is covered with tripods, cameras, and the creations of his latest stop-motion animated piece.

Wang was born in China and while he never liked writing, he always loved watching movies or reading picture books.

"It's a way of seeing this world so differently," Wang told CBS 58's Ellie Nakamoto-White.

That led him to pick up a camera and start shooting.

What followed was years of filmmaking, with his stories being aired on PBS and at various venues in several countries besides the United States, including Austria, Slovenia, Spain, and China.

Wang also earned the prestigious Cream City Cinema Emerging Voices Award by HBO in 2018.

"Most of my films are about immigrants and identities," Wang said.

When CBS 58 visited, he was in the middle of working on his current film about the humble Bing cherry.

"It's the most common cherry in the U.S.," Wang said. "It's named after a Chinese immigrant."

Wang explained that sometimes immigrants are "very invisible."

"Thousands and thousands of Chinese immigrants that live in this country, their voices aren't being heard," Wang said.

That's what led him to create his film, Decoupling, which was chosen to air at this year's Milwaukee Film Festival which starts later this month.

Decoupling is a pandemic time capsule of Yinan and his family's life after their daughter, Zijin, was born in 2019.

Wang's parents came to visit and decided to have her accompany them back to China to meet his wife's relatives as well.

"It's supposed to be a short trip and maybe they'll be back in three months," Wang said.

But soon after that, the world shut down. Travel became nearly impossible, and their baby was stuck overseas thousands of miles away.

"It was so hard," Wang said. "So hard."

So, Wang picked up a camera and spent the last four years capturing their journey to reunite with their daughter amid the "decoupling" of America and China's relations.

"We still had hope," Wang said. "The journey is the story, it's the backbone of the film."

Decoupling will air on Saturday, April 20 at the Oriental Theatre at 3 p.m. and on Sunday, April 21 at the Times Cinema at 6:45 p.m.

To learn more about Wang's work, click here.

If you want to purchase tickets for the film festival, click here.

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