Dealing with some drama surrounding a famous Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, controversial Chinese actor Ai Weiwei is reportedly locked into a little bit of a spat with director Jason Wishnow over the independent film “The Sandstorm,” a ten-minute movie about a smoggy, futuristic China where water has become scarce.
According to a letter that was directed towards Mr. Wishnow on April 23, Mr. Weiwei noted that he had never agreed to be promoted as the star of “The Sandstorm.” He was casted as a water smuggler. He also wrote that he did not give consent to Mr. Wishnow to use his name and image to promote the film. He also claimed that he only agreed to take the role in the project and was not informed that he would be known as its star.
The letter, drafted by one of Mr. Weiwei’s representatives stated, “Ai WeiWei considered that you have not only misled him in this regard, but are also potentially deceiving providers of the funds to your project as to the extend of Ai Weiwei’s involvement… potentially implicating Ai Weiwei in your deception without his knowledge or concent.”
Currently, all Kickstarter content pertaining to “The Sandstorm” has been removed from the site. The crowdfunding giant wrote the film is “the subject of an intellectual property dispute and is currently unavailable.” More specially it revealed “photographes taken by Mr. Ai Weiwei and constituting his copyrighted materials [were] reproduced on the Kickstarter website… without Mr. Ai’s permission, this constitutes a breach of Mr. Ai Weiwei’s copyright in respect of these images.”
Mr. Weiwei’s representative Darryl Leung revealed in an email on Tuesday that the letter was authentic and there has been no response from Wishnow. “We don’t know what the finale resolution will be and we don’t know whether the film will be shown.”
During an interview with the Post earlier this month, Mr. Wishnow said he had met Ai in Beijing and the two had mutually agreed on the project as a “homage to science fiction films and Asian art house cinema.” He also noted Ai had been excited to partake in the film and had become particularly absorbed and invested in his character.
Hong Kong-based cinematographer Christopher Doyle described “The Sandstorm” as a “very minimalistic, simple shooting process” and Mr. Wishnow added, “[it is] a low-fi, sci-fi short, made in China under the radar.”
The film was supposed to be released at film festivals this summer and potentially returning to China to shoot a sequel. Its campaign made $60,000 through Kickstarter. The money, which was collected from more than 2,000 backers, was meant to go towards promotions and post-production work.
See Copyright Notice Below:
a secret sci-fi film shot in China • 沙尘暴 starring Ai Weiwei [Submitted by private individual]
Date: Apr 28, 2014Sender [Private] Sent via online form
RecipientKickstarter, Inc. 58 Kent Street Brooklyn, NY 11222 USA
Re: a secret sci-fi film shot in China • 沙尘暴 starring Ai Weiwei
Description of copyrighted material: Photographs taken by Mr. Ai Weiwei (posted to his Instagram account) and constituting his copyrighted material, reproduced on the Kickstarter website here without Mr. Ai’s permission: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/wishnow/a-secret-sci-fi-film-shot-in-china-starring-ai-wei/posts/815957 This constitutes a breach of Mr. Ai Weiwei’s copyright in respect of these images.
Description of infringing material: Moving images, still images and text using Mr. Ai Weiwei’s name and image for the purposes of raising funds and conducting a trade, located at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/wishnow/a-secret-sci-fi-film-shot-in-china-starring-ai-wei This constitutes use for the purpose of trade of the name and image of Mr. Ai Weiwei without Mr. Ai Weiwei’s written consent, constituting an infringement of the New York Civil Rights code (N.Y. CVR. LAW § 50) and other state and federal laws.
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