Yang Gang in Iowa City, photo by Jimmy Ban
How was My Yang Gang Diary born? In the spring of 2019, I was first introduced to Andrew Yang by one of my best friends from college. At the time, Andrew had just begun campaigning for the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, and was still basically an unknown candidate. I was born in Shanghai, China, and although I lived in the United States for over 30 years I had never been involved in any political campaign, for president or otherwise. Filmmaking was always one of my passions, though, and I have been making videos for 25 years. So, out of curiosity, I decided to go and film Andrew’s Humanity First Rally at Washington Square Park in New York City on May 14th, 2019.
I initially didn’t expect much, but after I saw how passionate the hundreds of people at the rally were listening to Andrew’s speech, I began to take notice. At the rally, I witnessed the power of people coming together for a cause they believed in; people of all colors and ages. My reaction to this was so powerful that I started to become interested in videoing more events, such as phone-bankings and fundraising. The turning point for me was after I read Andrew Yang’s book, The War on Normal People, after which I slowly became a member of the Yang Gang.
I was deeply moved by the grassroots movement. Between June 2019 and June 2020, I travelled to 12 cities across America and filmed everything I could on my iPhone 11. I met many Yang Gang in person and on multiple social media platforms. I even decided to fly to Iowa to cover “Yang Week," where I covered many hours of canvassing and protests in brutal weather. At that time, I had not even considered making a movie with all the footage. I simply wanted to document the passion and dedication of the Yang Gang. I also became a supporter of Universal Basic Income, one of the main policies of Andrew’s campaign.
More than 100 Yang Gang from all parts of the US were involved in the project. Since I was a part of the Yang Gang, I was able to interview more than 50 supporters. And because iPhone is small and convenient to carry, I was able to capture much of the rawness of the movement.
When Andrew Yang suspended his campaign in February 2020, the Yang Gang were devastated, and myself too. During the pandemic lockdown, in March 2020, I slowly began to organize my files and edit the 200 hours of footage I had filmed. The first version of what would become My Yang Gang Diary was born in January 2021, and went through countless revisions. The current 90 minutes version was screened at the Socially Relevant Film Festival NY, in March 2022.
The soundtracks in the film were gathered from talented members of the Yang Gang, as well as music by my family, friends and my own performances. They covered a wide range of genres, from classical music to jazz, pop, country, R&B, and contemporary music (much like the Yang Gang itself).
Ching Juhl, director