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Ai Weiwei's segment cut from 'Berlin, I Love You'

Melissa Chan | Louisa Wright
February 18, 2019

Producers of the film 'Berlin, I Love You' have cited Chinese influence as the reason they cut Ai Weiwei's segment. The artist told DW that the Berlin International Film Festival suggested his section be removed.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei
Image: DW/Sebastian Gabsch

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei's segment in the film "Berlin, I Love You" was cut from the final version due to concerns the artist had become a political liability, the artist and film producers said.

"The reason we were given for the episode's removal was that my political status had made it difficult for the production team to secure further funding," Ai told DW reporter Melissa Chan.

Read more: Ai Weiwei: 'Refugee crisis is a political tool for populists'

Ai said he was not aware his contribution was being deleted until after the film was released.

The Berlin film is the latest installment in the "Cities in Love" film series, which has already seen films set in New York and Paris. One of the film's executive producers is also making a Shanghai installment of the series, Ai said.

Ai told DW that the Berlin International Film Festival had suggested his participation in the film had made it difficult for the producers to submit it as an entry to the event, a claim the festival has denied.

"[The producers] told me they submitted this film to the Berlin Film Festival and the festival told them, if Ai Weiwei's in there, the film can never be accepted," Ai said.

Ai Weiwei is an outspoken critic of China's government and spent four years under house arrest in China until he was finally allowed to leave the country in July 2015. He then moved to Berlin.

Berlin Film Festival censored?

Producers back Ai's story

Claus Clausen, one of the film's producers, confirmed Ai Weiwei's story to DW, including the accusation against the film festival.

He said he had no choice but to delete Ai's segment and that it had nothing to do with creative differences, adding that he loved Ai's contribution.

Read more: China: When poetry saves you from the factory

"We had to decide. We wanted to [include Ai's segment]. We were desperate to do it but we couldn't," Clausen said.

Ai's segment was the first to be filmed. He directed it via video calling app FaceTime while still under house arrest in China in 2015, and his participation helped to build momentum and get other directors on board.

Berlinale denies claims

The Berlin Film Festival told DW they do not comment on films that had not been selected, but added: "We can confirm that the involvement of Ai Weiwei would never be a criteria for choosing or not choosing a film."

"Berlin, I Love You" is not the only film to have succumbed to apparent influence from China. Earlier, top Chinese director Zhang Yimou withdrew his film "One Second" — set during the Cultural Revolution — from consideration for the Berlinale's prized Golden Bear in what is widely believed to be censorship and control by Chinese officials.

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