A film inspired by the true life experiences of sisters Ying Wang and Jie Wang.
Born towards the tail end of China’s Cultural Revolution, Ying and Jie are part of the generation who matured during China's drastic modern transformation. Like many young people who experienced the Tiananmen Square Movement in 1989, they came to the West out of a longing for freedom and a better world. Reality quickly tested their ideals when the younger sister Jie developed a severe eating disorder after moving to the United States in the 1990s. Her painful struggle with this “Western” mental illness triggered a deep crisis in the family.
In 2001, after five lonely years battling her eating disorder alone, Jie drove across the United States from South Carolina and moved into Ying’s one bedroom apartment in Vancouver, British Columbia. Living closely with someone suffering from mental illness was a shocking and eye-opening experience for Ying. A journalist back in China, Ying’s inquisitive nature led her into the world of mental illness, and the beginnings of a lifelong obsession with “mental disorders.” Without medical insurance, Jie couldn’t afford the cost of proper treatment; Using moving images as a tool, Ying created her own form of “art therapy” for her sister.
With Ying’s encouragement, Jie became a co-writer for the screenplay of Sisters and also played the younger sister Ping, a fictionalized version of herself. Making the film turned out to be a healing experience for Jie. Looking back, she often describes the process as the first chance she ever had to speak in her own voice. The film helped her to move towards a slow but solid recovery from the illness that had swallowed her life for a decade. On May 3rd, 2005, during National Mental Health Week, Sisters was publicly screened at The Cinemathèque in Vancouver, where Jie bravely shared her story with a packed theatre.
After the completion of the film, Ying and Jie showed it in communities across the Pacific Northwest. Jie eventually moved to Seattle to become a web designer. Ying went on to split her time between film projects and community arts initiatives that create opportunities for self-expression and human connection. In 2007, Ying co-founded Cinevolution Media Arts Society, a grassroot organization dedicated to community engaged art in a city with one of the highest new immigrant populations in Canada.
For Ying, Jie’s recovery is testimony to the power of art in creating opportunities to transform and transcend ourselves both as individuals and collectively as a society.