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Following Ai Weiwei’s detention at the hands of the Chinese authorities, the outspoken artist and activist transformed the former island penitentiary of Alcatraz into an artistic platform. The resulting exhibition, entitled @Large, engaged nearly 900,000 visitors in a conversation about the plight of prisoners of conscience around the world. Trace was one of the artworks that comprised the exhibition. Made entirely from LEGO bricks, Trace depicts the faces and names of 176 brave individuals who were incarcerated or exiled due to their beliefs, affiliations, and nonviolent expressions of dissent. The work’s companion piece, Yours Truly, invited visitors to compose messages of hope to many of the prisoners seen in Trace. By the time the exhibition ended, over 90,000 postcards had been sent. Then something even more astonishing began to happen: The FOR-SITE Foundation started to hear back from the prisoners and their families. Some of the messages were getting through, and people had been moved—even sustained—by the public’s outpouring of concern for their welfare and causes.
AI WEIWEI: YOURS TRULY follows these postcards around the globe—from Alcatraz Island to Beijing, Washington, D.C., and Cairo—as Director Cheryl Haines meets with former prisoners of conscience and their families to discuss their impossible choices and the comfort they found in the messages. Interviews with Ai Weiwei, his mother, and lifelong friends uncover his inspiration in the touching story of a childhood spent in exile and a postcard that found its way to the middle of nowhere. Ultimately, the film is a call to action, asking viewers to take the issue of global human rights personally. NR, 76 min.
"Whether you’re a fan of Ai Weiwei’s work or you are completely unaware of him, AI WEIWEI: YOURS TRULY shows not only the importance of activism and freedom of speech but also highlights that wherever you are in the world, somebody will be fighting for your rights and you may not even realise it." —BRWC
"Even for those familiar with Ai and his work, the film’s offerings of fascinating insights into his personal life and an exploration of the stakes of personal freedom make it a worthy viewing experience...it shines." —The New York Times
"The creative dialogs throughout the film are insightful, the footage is beautiful, the biography deepens our understanding of Ai Weiwei’s process, material choices, and intentions for the work; but it’s this last part, the interviews with freed prisoners of conscience, that really touch the heart. By the time you get to Ai Weiwei’s sitdown with Chelsea Manning, the film has become a wholly divergent experience from where it began — an experience that if possible is even more full of persistent hope and meaningful emotion than even the landmark exhibition itself." —LA Weekly