Jiwei Xiao is an associate professor teaching Chinese language and literature and world cinema at Fairfield University, Connecticut. Her writing has appeared in Film Quarterly, the Rocky Mountain Review, New Left Review, Cineaste and the Los Angeles Review of Books. (March 2020)
A specter is haunting the globe—the specter of a treacherous pathogen. “You can’t stop it, if you can’t see it,” goes the expert advice, and our government leaders have now, belatedly, taken that message to heart and are starting to do the extensive testing that can help slow the pandemic’s spread. But another terrible scourge—no less hard to combat—is also abroad: the blinding “facial recognition” racism that renders any “Chinese-looking” Asian in the US vulnerable to harassment, shaming, even violent hate crimes.
The Wild Goose Lake is not by any means the first Chinese film to be set in Wuhan, but it’s rare to hear an entire cast speak the Wuhan dialect and see the city’s real locations—especially its lake and “urban villages”—feature in a high-profile film. Today, it is the coronavirus outbreak, not Diao’s film, that has put Wuhan on the world map. Yet the film seems, if anything, to have taken on a darker poignancy since it premiered four months ago at the New York Film Festival.