Ai Weiwei: Yours Truly
Directed by Cheryl Haines and Gina Leibrecht
July 8 – October 4, 2020
“Inspiring! Highlights the power of the public to make a change in their societies. Seek out this great documentary for it’s poignant and very relevant massage of persevering in your struggle no matter the cost.”—Jacob Watkinson, FilmNews UK
This compelling documentary begins with the story of how Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s father received an anonymous postcard while in exile as a dissident poet in the 1950s. One small act of humanity had a profoundly transformational impact on both father and son. In the film, Weiwei elaborates on this meaningful event, revealing candid details about his childhood, including years of harsh life on the edge of the Gobi Desert.
The years in the Gobi, along with Weiwei’s 2011 detention by Chinese authorities, became the inspiration for his revolutionary exhibition @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, a monumental presentation of new artworks addressing the struggle for fundamental human rights. The exhibition was organized in 2014 by Cheryl Haines, the film’s co-director and one of the most important voices in contemporary art in the U.S.
Following his detention, the outspoken artist and activist (though still prevented from traveling abroad) transformed Alcatraz, America’s most notorious prison, into a powerful expression of socially engaged art without ever having set foot on the island. The @Large exhibition featured portraits made from LEGO bricks of prisoners of conscience from around the world.
For the final piece of the exhibition, Weiwei, inspired by his father’s story, invited visitors to write messages of hope to imprisoned activists using postcards imprinted with the national birds and flowers of the countries where the prisoners were being held. The project was named Yours Truly and by the time the exhibition ended, over 90,000 postcards had been sent across the globe. Then something even more astonishing happened: prisoners and their families began writing back.
Ai Weiwei: Yours Truly follows these postcards around the globe, from Alcatraz to Bahrain, Washington D.C., Cairo and beyond, as former prisoners of conscience, and the families of those still detained, reveal the comfort they found in messages from people they would never meet. 2019, U.S., 78 minutes