Thursday, March 15, 2012

Leaping the Great Firewall

People engage their creativity for many reasons. At this year’s True/False film festival in Columbia, Missouri, I was very impressed by two films documenting the courage of two Chinese bloggers and an artist who use their creativity to challenge the censorship of the Chinese government.

Zola is a Chinese citizen blogger. Image from
The first was a secret screening so I won’t reveal the name of the film. It focuses on Zhou Shuguang who blogs as Zola and Zhang Shihe who blogs as Tiger Temple. Zhou is from Hunan province and since 2004 has been writing a blog documenting sensitive issues in China, including freedom of speech and government censorship of the media. Beijing based Zhang is a former marketing executive who traverses China on a bicycle to highlight those who have been left behind by the growing market economy and ignored by the Chinese government. Both bloggers risk their life daily trying to bring transparency to a closed society.

Tiger Temple traverses China by bicycle to document injustice. Image from his blog.

BBC image of Ai WeiWei at his Sunflower Seed exhibit at the Tate.
Alison Klayman’s Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry documents one of China’s more famous and controversial international artists. 

Ai WeiWei collaborated on the design of the Beijing National Stadium and is recognized by the art community worldwide for creating conceptual art by altering readymade objects. As a political activist, he has been openly critical of government corruption and cover ups including the scandal following the collapse of poorly constructed schools in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Ai WeiWei’s international fame has provided a broad international audience for his ideas, but it did not protect him from an April 2011 arrest by the Chinese authorities. Released after 2 months of being held without charges, he was accused of tax evasion. His legal battles with the Chinese government are not over and it will be interesting to see how Klayman’s film is received in China.

While I blog about creativity weekly, the greatest potential impact to me and most of my audience is a gain or loss of readership or market share. It is inspiring to learn about those willing to put their lives on the line for journalistic and artistic freedom.

What motivates your creativity?

Director Allison Klayman (center) and friends. Tweeted from the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri.