Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang

Grand Jury Prize ~ World Cinema: Documentary
Sundance Film Festival
The subject makes for a film that is literally explosive. Beautiful and touching.


Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang

Oscar®-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald’s (ONE DAY IN SEPTEMBER, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, TOUCHING THE VOID) takes a dazzling look at an art-world giant in SKY LADDER: THE ART OF CAI GUO-QIANG. With the documentary's ambitious namesake – a 1,650 foot ladder of fire climbing into the skies above his hometown – the film captures Cai's work, which unites Eastern philosophy and Chinese tradition with contemporary social issues. The film had its world premiere as Opening Night of the World Documentary Competition at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

Acclaimed filmmaker Kevin Macdonald had unfettered access to world-renowned artist Cai Guo-Qiang, whose frequent use of gunpowder serves as both an ancestral homage and an acknowledgment of humanity's fleeting nature. Creating ambitious signature pieces on the largest imaginable scales, Cai's electrifying work often transcends physical permanence while burning its philosophies into the audience's minds forever. Told through the artist's own words and those of family, friends and observers, the film tracks Cai’s meteoric rise and examines how and why he engineers artworks that loom as far as the eye can see and wow millions, such as a six mile-long gunpowder fuse stretching from the Great Wall into the Gobi Desert or the astounding opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. SKY LADDER: THE ART OF CAI GUO-QIANG is an in-depth portrait of a contemporary creative icon with an ever-present social-political consciousness, a man whose awe-inspiring works are not only visually imposing but have far-reaching implications.

“Documentaries on artists are often static affairs…not so with Kevin Macdonald’s film about Cai Guo-Qiang. The subject makes for a film that is literally explosive. Beautiful and touching.” – Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

“The spectacular visual displays of the Chinese-born artist Cai Guo-Qiang lend an undeniably cinematic razzle dazzle to ‘Sky Ladder.’ An involving portrait of this internationally renowned figure.” – Justin Chang, Variety

“Flamboyant and audience-engaging. Even the most art-averse cynic will recognize the blood, sweat and tears that went in to creating this strange and beautiful experience.” – Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian
Not Rated
Documentary, Bio-pic, Art & Artists
English, Mandarin
Kevin Macdonald
Nominee, Grand Jury Prize ~ World Cinema: Documentary, Sundance Film Festival
John Fink, The Film Stage

Using gunpowder and sky as his canvas, Chinese-born artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s extraordinary statements on environmentalism, capitalism and humanity do require a large screen to absorb. An intimate yet occasionally grand biography of Cai, director Kevin MacDonald finds a slight balance between the past ...

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