SKY LADDER: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang – Sundance ’16 Review

This documentary from director Kevin Macdonald follows Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang on his quest to create The Sky Ladder, a 1,650-foot firework ladder. The documentary centers on Guo-Qiang’s fourth attempt to construct his ascending explosion in his home village after three previous failed attempts abroad. The legacy born from Guo-Qiang’s explosive and subversive work is explored through an international and domestic lens. We are given a view of the young artist struggling to find his form and “disrupt [his] art.” This desire is realized when Guo Qiang begins working with gunpowder early on in his career. The role of the Chinese government as pertaining to art and creative freedom is discussed in parallel to Guo-Qiang’s trajectory as an artist. The film follows Guo-Qiang as his art takes him across the globe telling powerful stories of conservation, unity and peace. Guo-Qiang explores the artist’s role not only as a creator but also a destructive force.

UntitledCourtesy of the Sundance Institute

An intimate portrait is produced of a son, grandson, husband and father as well as revolutionary in the art world. The artist discusses his work as a dialogue between him and the unseen powers of the universe. He stresses that art must be about more than spectacle; it must tell a story in order to have meaning. I highly (1, 650 feet high to be exact) recommend this film for anyone interested in art, the creative process, and turning it all on its head in search of an authentic connection with the universe and ones self.

-Alia Brandt, Executive Producer, BFF at Sundance

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