The Lower East Side filmmaker who launched a Kickstarter campaign for a sci-fi film featuring Ai Weiwei only to see it shut down by the Chinese artist-activist has issued an apology that will allow the fundraiser to go forward.
Back in April, Jason Wishnow told us how he, Ai Weiwei, and esteemed cinematographer Christopher Doyle shot The Sand Storm over the course of two days in Beijing. The shoot was a collegial one, judging by photos of a grinning Weiwei — who plays a water smuggler in the dystopian film — shaving the filmmakers’ heads on set. But the Kickstarter was frozen on the heels of a cease-and-desist letter claiming that Weiwei’s image and name had been used in the film’s promotion without his consent.
Now Wishnow (who — full disclosure — is a friend) has issued an apology, via his Kickstarter page, in which he tells Weiwei, “Your image and identity are precious, so I should have known better than to take at face value an early conversational nod on your part to make and market this movie as I saw fit. Promoting your involvement in the film while failing to fully include you in our Kickstarter preparations was careless.” He goes on to assure, “My intent was to honor you, not exploit you.”
Wishnow explains to his backers that the crossed signals occurred because “I hastily sent advance-links [to Weiwei] via my usual, casual contacts, rather than his standard channels for such matters, without follow-up on my part, interpreting silence as approval.” Which is why Weiwei ended up “discovering our fundraiser secondhand, through the invasiveness of Google alerts and press inquiries which eclipsed any fun we shared on set.”
A day after his campaign was frozen, Wishnow writes, he hopped on a plane to China, where, over the course of three meetings, Weiwei asked Wishnow to “tone down emphasis on him for fundraising purposes.”
Though images of Weiwei have, for the most part, been scrubbed from the Kickstarter page and the film teaser, Wishnow instists that “he is still in the film, same as ever.”
The short’s release date is said to be in limbo, but the project definitely looks like a go: at the time of this post, with about 70 hours left in the campaign, over 1,900 backers have pledged over $87,600.