Ai Weiwei Investigates Mexican Student Disappearance in 'Vivos' Trailer (Exclusive)

Courtesy of Sundance
'Vivos'

Cinephil will handle international sales on the new documentary from the award-winning Chinese artist and filmmaker, which premieres at Sundance Jan. 24.

What really happened to the 43 Mexican students who were “forcibly disappeared” on the night of Sept. 26, 2014?

That's the question Vivos, the new documentary from acclaimed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, sets out to answer.

The convoy of college students were traveling by bus through the drug cartel-afflicted Guerrero state when they were brutally attacked by masked assailants abetted by the police. Six people were killed on site, dozens were wounded and 43 students disappeared. Their fate is still unknown.

The first trailer for Vivos dropped today. The film will have its world premiere at Sundance on Friday, Jan. 24. Cinephil is handling international sales.

The focus of the film is clearly on those left behind. Ai lets his camera linger on the faces of the parents, siblings and friends of the disappeared as they recount their last moments with them, and their struggle to discover what really happened on that night in 2014.

But the film is not just a careful study of grief and loss. After his time with the families, the director dives into the details of the case, investigating and questioning the government's “historic truth” that claims it was the drug cartels, with the help of corrupt local authorities, that murdered the students. The film explores the deep connections between the Narcos and the federal government and looks at the complicity of the United States, whose “war on drugs” has only made the situation worse.

Ai re-teams with Danish editor Niels Pagh Andersen, his partner on the award-winning refugee documentary Human Flow (2017), for Vivos.

Philippa Kowarsky of Cinephil sees the new film as a continuation of the director's work of human rights activism.

“In his work as director, as well as in his artistic practice, Ai has always highlighted the plight of the victims of corruption and abuse of power.,” says Kowarsky. “With Vivos, Ai once again demonstrates the power of documentary film as an artistic as well as a political medium, and we are proud to be a part of getting his humanitarian message out to a wider audience.”

Check out the Vimeo trailer for Vivos below.