First Run Features presents

A Personal Look at the Art of Ai Weiwei
and the
Untold Story of His Childhood
and its Impact on His Work


Coming to Apple TV, iTunes & Amazon
on December 22, 2020

First Run Features is proud to announce the streaming premiere of Ai Weiwei: Yours Truly.
The documentary will be available on Apple TV, iTunes and Amazon beginning December 22, 2020.

Human rights become profoundly personal when Ai Weiwei, China's most famous artist, transforms Alcatraz Island prison into an astonishing expression of socially-engaged art focused on the plight of the unjustly incarcerated. At the core of the installation, called @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, were portraits of prisoners of conscience coupled with the opportunity to write letters of solidarity to the imprisoned.
In their impassioned and powerful film, director Cheryl Haines and co-director Gina Leibrecht capture this monumental exhibition from conception to fruition, and as well visits current and former prisoners, including American whistleblower Chelsea Manning, to learn how these letters were vital to their survival.
Ai Weiwei: Yours Truly
Directed by Cheryl Haines; Co-directed by Gina Leibrecht
78 minutes, color, 2019
"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 shines."
- Lovia Gyarkye, The New York Times

"One of the great films of the year! A near-perfect look at Weiwei’s art installation that took place on Alcatraz Island. Truly magical...a must-see!"
- Steve Kopian, Unseen films

"Powerful! A moving cinematic experience and so wide-ranging a project that it is likely to appeal even to those who might not think they are interested in the famed artist."  - Barbara Pollack, ArtNews

"From the meditative, thoughtful pace of the studio footage and interviews with Haines, Ai Weiwei, his family members, and salient cultural figures, the film builds toward the completed installation which is then explored and explained with a lot of care and detail. It’s all very elegant and informative, and its on-site views are experiential and evocative. 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 and/or with their families, 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."
- Shana Nys Dambrot, LA Weekly

Directed by Cheryl Haines and co-directed by Gina Leibrecht, Ai Weiwei: Yours Truly begins with the story of how Weiwei’s father received an anonymous postcard while in exile as a dissident poet in the 1950s, and how this one small act of humanity had a profoundly moving and transformational impact on both father and son. This, 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 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. Throughout the film, we discover how personal these issues of injustice and incarceration are for Ai Weiwei and the extent to which he wove his family’s experiences into the exhibition.

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.

Filmmaker & Cast Biographies

Artist, Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei is among the world’s most celebrated contemporary artists and an outspoken critic of injustice, both in China and abroad. An ardent human rights activist, Ai was arrested by Chinese authorities on April 3, 2011, and held incommunicado for eighty-one days. For over four years following his release, he was prohibited from traveling abroad and subjected to ongoing government surveillance. Having relocated to Berlin, Ai continues to extend his practice across multiple disciplines, using exhibitions and social media to communicate with a global public. A vocal critic of the world’s response to refugees, he has made two documentary films on the subject: Human Flow (2017) which addresses the global refugee crisis, and The Rest (2019) which focuses on the plight of individual refugees living stateless in Europe. His most recent film is Vivos (2020), about a convoy of students from a rural teachers' college in Mexico that was 'disappeared' in the drug cartel-afflicted Guerrero state.

Director, Cheryl Haines

Director Cheryl Haines is the founding executive director and chief curator of the FOR-SITE Foundation. As the curator of @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, she was the driving force in securing the location for that landmark exhibition. For over thirty years, Haines has developed exhibitions and site-specific public programs that have exposed new audiences to contemporary art and advanced the discourse on art about place. Cheryl’s dynamic curatorial stance presents challenging and provocative exhibitions by artists who explore cultural and environmental issues through a wide range of media, as well as public, site-specific commissions on a national scale.

Co-director and Editor, Gina Leibrecht

Co-director Gina Leibrecht’s career began in 1998 in collaboration with the late documentary filmmaker and pioneer of the form, Les Blank, with whom she produced, directed, and edited the feature documentary All In This Tea (world premiere, 2007 Berlin International Film Festival; Sundance Channel). Gina co-directed Blank’s final work, How to Smell a Rose: A Visit with Ricky Leacock in Normandy (North American premiere, 2014 Telluride Film Festival). Most recently, Gina edited Kevin White’s 2018 documentary Wilder Than Wild (Best Bay Area Environmental Documentary at the San Francisco Green Festival) and Owsley Brown’s award-winning feature documentary Serenade for Haiti (world premiere, DOC NYC, 2016).

Film Credits

Director: Cheryl Haines
Editor and Co-Director: Gina Leibrecht
Producers: Christy McGill, Cassandra Jabola
Directors of Photography: Dana Smillie, Jan Stürmann
Creative Producers: Sharon Wood, David Spalding
Executive Producers: Roger Evans & Aey Phanachet
Motion Graphics Editor: Sean Dana / 7G Productions
Music By: Wendy Blackstone
Cinematographers: Jan Stürmann, Dana Smillie
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