Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is no stranger to controversy, especially in his homeland, where his outspoken views on human rights repeatedly land him in hot water with the government. This time, however, the controversy is of a different nature. Weiwei publicly accused the makers of a dystopian short film called “The Sand Storm” of stealing his name and image to promote their movie.
To be fair, Weiwei has a low-key role in the film, but the filmmakers, looking for finishing funds on Kickstarter, plastered his face all over the page, along with some copyrighted pictures Weiwei didn’t give them permission to use, in order to make it look like he was the star of the project, and to use his fame to secure additional money. Since then, director Jason Wishnow has removed those images from the Kickstarter page and written a public apology letter.
Perhaps the real reason Weiwei distanced himself from the project is because the film itself is not very good. The film’s Vimeo page has a considerable number of Kickstarter backers complaining about the poor execution and sloppy writing. In this writer’s opinion, unfocused writing, pedantic acting and a love triangle sub-plot that would be too embarrassing for a first-year film student, ruin a clever idea about a dystopian world where access to water is a rare luxury.
It’s nearly impossible to see where the $101,065 raised just for the post-production went. Apparently “The Sand Storm” is supposed to be part of a possible feature, but it’s hard to see where the story for a longer project might come from since the short itself is padded out, but still only nine minutes. You can watch the short below. If you’d like to see a good film about Weiwei, the excellent documentary “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” is still available on Netflix streaming.