About the Program
Get to know Ai Weiwei as a documentary filmmaker! Newly released to general audiences, the following films provide a harrowing look at life in times of crisis. Don’t miss this opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of human rights issues around the world.
This program is presented in association with the exhibition Ai Weiwei: Trace.
Ai Weiwei’s latest release, Cockroach, was filmed during protests over Hong Kong’s controversial extradition bill, which would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to face trial in mainland China—decimating the city’s independence under “one country, two systems.” Proposed in February 2019, the bill sparked immediate outrage over widespread fear of arbitrary detention and politically motivated trials. Cockroach captures this unprecedented era in Hong Kong’s history with footage of street demonstrations, police suppression and violence, and key events such as the multi-day siege of Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Despite mass protests, China imposed the National Security Law in Hong Kong on June 30, 2020, effectively ending the city's judicial and political autonomy. While the impacts of this new law and the opposing pro-democracy movement are still being felt, Cockroach serves as a visual record of the final moments of Hong Kong's independence. (2020, 93 min. No MPAA rating.)
Coronation is the first feature-length documentary about the coronavirus response in Wuhan, China. As the first city hit in the global pandemic, the Chinese metropolis with a population of eleven million was placed under an unprecedented lockdown. Sprawling emergency field hospitals were erected in a matter of days, forty thousand medical workers were bused in from all over China, and the city’s residents were sealed into their homes.
Filmed by Wuhan citizens and directed remotely by Ai Weiwei, Coronation records the state’s brutally efficient, militarized response to control the virus. Despite the impressive scale and speed of the Wuhan lockdown, the film asks us to confront a more existential question: Can civilization survive without humanity? (2020, 115 min. No MPAA rating.)
Vivos examines the psychological and emotional toll, systemic injustice, and communal solidarity in the aftermath of the forced disappearance of forty-three Mexican students by police and other masked assailants in the city of Iguala, Guerrero, in 2014.
Featuring interviews with family members and surviving classmates, as well as human rights experts and international investigators, Vivos presents a defiant assertion of life behind the community’s rallying cry: “Alive, they took them! Alive, we want them back!” (2020, 112 min. No MPAA rating.)
A follow-up film to Human Flow, Ai Weiwei’s sprawling 2017 documentary on the global refugee condition, The Rest provides an intimate look at the lives of refugees who have settled in Europe after fleeing from war and persecution in their home countries. On the other side of their perilous journeys, most have not found the safe havens of their dreams. Instead, they live in limbo within a disintegrating humanitarian aid system.
Their experiences demonstrate how pan-European values of liberalism and democracy have largely failed in practice. And yet, it is clear from The Rest that humanitarian solutions are urgently needed for these refugees, whose futures remain indefinitely postponed. (2019, 78 min. No MPAA rating.)
The exhibition Ai Weiwei: Trace and its related educational programs are made possible by support from the following Lead Donor:
Steve Tisch Family Foundation
Along with generous support from the following donors:
Billie B. and Steven G. Fischer Foundation
Chara Schreyer and Gordon Freund