Looking Back to Look Forward - Boulder International Film Festival

Looking Back to Look Forward

Ai WeiWei: Yours Truly // CALL2ACTION // BIFF 2020 to BIFF 2021

Looking Back to Look Forward

By: MACK Costley

Intern // Creative Content Writer 

WC 723

In this time of indeterminate distancing, when much of what was once so present, so vital, is now absent with a uniquely novel clarity, art is essential. A multitude held in a single word, Art. It’s the liberator, the unifier, the contrarian, the elite, the everyman, the uplifted and the downtrodden; it’s a wondrous, juxtaposed totality. Could there be a better ameliorator in this time of ameliorate-less uncertainty?

Looking back, pre-pandemic, there is one BIFF-screened film that jumps the year to meet us here, in 2021, as we navigate the indeterminates, absences, and uncertainties of the now, as we approach festival-time once again, to live up to that all too oft-used, art-appellation: timeless. 

Ai WeiWei: Yours Truly, filmmaker Cheryl Haines’ tour de filmic-connection and force, saw its Colorado premiere, in 2020, here at BIFF, and there couldn’t possibly be a better time to bring this convergence of art works and artists back to the forefront. In her film, Haines tracks one of China’s most essential creative forces: Ai WeiWei. Beloved worldwide for his undying dedication to activism and artistry, WeiWei knows better than most how the two can collide to make something extra-corporeal, something life changing. 

Haines spotlights WeiWei’s unique perspective in her film, and gives audiences an illuminated glimpse into his outlook as he designs an unprecedented exhibit for Alcatraz Prison and reflects on his childhood growing up away from father Ai Qing — a preeminent and controversial modern Chinese poet — whilst Qing was in a Chinese labor camp. With its intimate interviews, shots of WeiWei’s installation — Lego-block portraits of some 172 individuals imprisoned in Alcatraz for crimes of conscience — and brilliantly woven plotline with a foot in the past and a foot in the future, Ai WeiWei: Yours Truly is a film that, truly, encourages activism in all life venues. Strung from past to future, one such of WeiWei’s activist acts in the film looks back to father Qing’s time in exile — when he received an anonymous postcard commemorating the publication of his most famous poem, an act and message within which Qing found immense solace — to provide exhibit-goers with a forward-looking beneficence: letter writing. 

On sprawling tables, people of all ages were given the chance to write to those behind bars and express their own sentiments towards the brave men and women imprisoned for crimes not dissimilar from Qing’s own, and Hines’ film documents it all. The collective spirit in this act, and in the film overall, is truly staggering, and it shines the spotlight, rightly so, on WeiWei and those like him who endeavour to make tomorrow a better tomorrow for all. 

It’s no shock, then, that Ai WeiWei was also a 2020 Call2Action centerpiece. What is Call2Action? How was Hines’ Ai WeiWei: Yours Truly involved? How can you get involved with Call2Action at BIFF 2021? Here’s a breakdown:



The Call2Action Program creates deeper exchanges between the filmmaker, the audience, and an organization partnering with BIFF. These partners market and publicize the film to their networks and provide 5 action items that the community can take to make a difference. After the screenings at Boulder Theater, audience members can convene in our large TalkBack tent at 14th St & Pearl St for extended post-film discussions. Here, the public is able to further engage with the visiting filmmakers and organizations to learn concrete ways to translate energy into action on important issues. For films at Boulder High and First Presbyterian Church, the TalkBacks are held within those venues.



At BIFF 2020, attendees were encouraged to:

  1. Send postcards of hope from BIFF!
    Postcards available at the C2A showing
    Postcards available at the BIFF festival tent on Pearl Street
  2. Take Action Now! with Amnesty International.
    Whether you have five minutes or a few hours, you can fight for human rights today at www.amnestyusa.org/take-action/act-now/
  3. Join Amnesty USA to support their work https://www.amnestyusa.org/
  4. Connect with your local social justice groups to take local actions.
    Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center https://www.rmpjc.org/ Denver Justice and Peace Committee http://denjustpeace.org/
  5. Learn more, Like, Follow or Donate to support the power of more “art about place” created by the For-Site Foundation at www.for-site.org.


To get involved in the Call2Action Program, please email staff@biff1.com



No Comments

Leave a Comment