On the afternoon of May 12, 2008, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake hit Wenchuan county in northern Sichuan province, devastating a vast area of mountainous terrain and killing some 70,000 people, including thousands of children who were in school when it hit. Around the country, concerned citizens began to question why the government-built school buildings collapsed so easily, burying thousands of children alive, when other edifices had withstood the strike. In response to suspicion that corruption had resulted in deficient construction for the schools, the government concealed information and refused to release the number and names of the students who had died. Activist Tan Zuoren was arrested for investigating the deaths, charged with inciting subversion of state power. Ai Weiwei, who was also researching the situation and would eventually publish the full roster of names on his blog, was invited to testify at Tan’s trial. As soon as Ai and his group arrived in Chengdu, they were followed and filmed. This harassment culminated with the police breaking into Ai’s hotel room and beating him, causing cranial trauma. This film records Ai and his lawyers as they repeatedly travel to Chengdu to seek an explanation from the authorities. The documentary exposes the naked violence of the relationship among the people, the law, and its enforcers.
Disturbing the Peace documents a close encounter between myself and China’s legal system. It reflects the difficulties individuals face in defending their rights in a totalitarian society. –Ai Weiwei
Language: Mandarin with English subtitles
Running time: 78 min
Director: Ai Weiwei 艾未未
Films and schedules may be subject to change.