This film is the inside story of a dissident for the digital age who inspires global audiences and blurs the boundaries of art and politics. First-time director Alison Klayman gained unprecedented access to Ai while working as a journalist in China. Her detailed portrait provides a nuanced exploration of contemporary China and one of its most compelling public figures.
As China’s economic growth continues to look robust in the wake of a global financial crisis, by its own standards, it has slowed since 2009. The Communist Party will inevitably be forced to reconsider investments in infrastructure and a reliance on exports, and instead put that money back into the hands of citizens to recharge the economy. On the streets and in the factories, low wages and poor working conditions have brought unrest, culminating in a rising number of nation-wide workers’ strikes and protests that have galvanized through the use of social media tools.
For decades, at the center of national subversion we have found internationally acclaimed contemporary artist Ai Weiwei. His online video that features random international citizens saying, fuck you motherland, in their native tongue into the camera is a bold example of his provocativeness. Ai Weiwei knows exactly how to connect to citizens – to make them believe in his ideas – and for the Chinese Government this poses a national threat, especially in an online age that they’re grappling to control.
As a very active user of Twitter and blogging, Ai Weiwei has also accrued a large group of young supporters to help with various movements; yet even associating themselves with Weiwei has put their own reputations with the Party at risk. As Ai sees it, he uses ‘assistants as assassins.’ Most notable was their work after the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 that had Ai leading a citizens’ investigation to compile list upon list of all the school children who had died in the disaster.
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