Release date:July 27, 2012
Starring:Danqing Chen, Ying Gao, Changwei Gu
Named by ArtReview as the most powerful artist in the world, Ai Weiwei is China's most celebrated contemporary artist, and its most outspoken domestic critic. In April 2011, when Ai disappeared into police custody for three months he quickly became China’s most famous missing person, having first risen to international prominence in 2008 after helping design Beijing’s iconic Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium—and then publicly denouncing the Games as party propaganda. Since then, Ai Weiwei’s critiques of China’s repressive regime have ranged from playful photographs of his raised middle finger in front of Tiananmen Square to searing memorials to the more than 5,000 schoolchildren who died in shoddy government construction in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Against a backdrop of strict censorship, Ai has become a kind of Internet champion, using his blog and constant—and frequently witty—Twitter stream to organize, inform and inspire his followers, becoming an underground hero to millions of Chinese citizens. First-time director Alison Klayman gained unprecedented access to the charismatic artist, as well as his family and others close to him, while working as a journalist in Beijing. In the years she filmed, government authorities shut down Ai’s blog, beat him up, bulldozed his newly built studio, and held him in secret detention—while Time magazine named him a runner-up for 2011’s Person of the Year. Her compelling documentary portrait is the inside story of a passionate dissident for the digital age who inspires global audiences and blurs the boundaries of art and politics.