‘Sky Ladder: The Art Of Cai Guo Qiang’ Scores China Theatrical Release

First released by Netflix in October 2016, the documentary about the artist best known for his pyrotechnic displays is coming to theaters in his homeland.

A documentary about Chinese artist Cai Guoqiang, best known for his spectacular pyrotechnic displays, has scored a release in his homeland on September 22.

‘Sky Ladder: the Art of Cai Guoqiang’ follows the renowned Chinese artist across the globe as he creates large-scale, visually stunning new work with explosives.

The film was co-produced by Wendi Deng as well as IDG Capital global chairman Xiong Xiaoge and premiered in the world documentary category at Sundance in 2016. Worldwide streaming rights were snapped up by Netflix soon after.

Sky Ladder is the result of a three-year effort by Kevin Macdonald, who followed Cai around the world from his hometown in Fujian in China’s southeast, to New York where the artist now resides.

Described in the LA Times as “a documentary that begs to be seen in a theater,” the film showcases Tai’s colorful fireworks displays as well as an intimate peep into the daily workings of Cai and his road to fame over three decades.

One of China’s most recognized artists in the West, Cai gained widespread attention during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing as the mastermind of the 29 ‘giant footprint’ fireworks seen at the opening ceremony.

The display, featuring 29 footprints fired in succession, traveling a total distance of 15 kilometers over 63 seconds, was globally televised to an audience of 4 billion, with 800 million viewers tuning in from China alone.

Not all Chinese artists are as welcome on mainland cinema screens as Cai. A film by dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who co-designed the Birds Nest Olympic stadium over which Cai Guoqiang’s 29th fireworks footprint exploded in 2008, has been ignored by the official press in China.

When it was announced that Ai’s refugee crisis film ‘Human Flow’ had made it into the Venice Film Festival, mainland Chinese news reports avoided mentioning his name.


Additional reporting Amber Ziye Wang