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‘Vivos’ Ai Weiwei's Mournful Ode to the Disappeared
Vivos Germany, Mexico 2019 — 112 min / Colour
Ai Weiwei's wrenching new doc examines the tragedy of 43 students "forcibly disappeared" in Mexico, and their families' unresolved grief.
Vivos is a documentary feature film by artist and filmmaker Ai Weiwei, portraying the human impact of Mexico’s ongoing crisis of enforced disappearances.
On the night of September 26, 2014, a convoy of students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in drug cartel-afflicted Guerrero state, travelling in buses in the city of Iguala, were brutally attacked by police forces and other masked assailants. In the course of the night, six people were killed, dozens more were wounded, and 43 students were forcibly disappeared.
Featuring interviews with family members and surviving classmates, as well as human rights experts and international investigators involved with the case, Vivos depicts the emotional impasse the families experience. As they face the still unaccounted-for absence of their loved ones, their family lives irrevocably fractured, the pain of their loss is compounded by the investigating authorities’ repeated attempts to mislead and to obstruct the official investigation.
The latest of Ai Weiwei’s films highlighting issues of systemic injustice, Vivos documents the aspirations, communal solidarity, and day-to-day lives of the grief-stricken but determined families, as they demand the authorities provide answers about the crimes committed that night and disclose the whereabouts of the missing students.
Ai Weiwei is renowned for making strong aesthetic statements that resonate with timely phenomena across today’s geopolitical world. From architecture to social media, Ai uses a wide range of mediums as new ways for his audiences to examine society and its values. Ai was born in Beijing in 1957 and currently resides and works in Berlin and Cambridge. He has made numerous documentaries about social and political issues that have been featured in major film festivals worldwide.
“So maybe there are three parts in my life - earlier background living in exile in Xinjiang in a very political circumstance, then later the United States from 24 to 36 years old. I was quite equipped with liberal thinking. Then the Internet. If there is no Internet, of course, I cannot really exercise my opinion or my ideas.” -- Ai Weiwei