2020 Sundance Docs in Focus: VIVOS

VIVOS | Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei reveals the tragic cost of Mexican human rights abuses.

Festival Section:
Documentary Premieres

Sundance Program Description:

On a late-September day in 2014, students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College were brutally attacked by police forces and other masked assailants as they were travelling through the town of Iguala, Guerrero. Six people were killed and 43 students were abducted and never heard from again. Since then, the families of the students have lived in limbo with their unanswered questions – and the psychological and emotional toll of the endemic violence currently plaguing Mexican society.

With meditative, breathtaking photography and intimate interviews, renowned artist and filmmaker Ai Weiwei details the void stories of the Ayotzinapa victims. Focusing on the families directly affected by the deaths and disappearances, Ai Weiwei gives visual expression to an unsolved humanitarian crisis aligning with his known dissent against repressive governments. VIVOS is a lyrical and unique approach to the tragedy that beautifully humanizes each and every victim as an individual and affirms they are forever vivos (alive) in the constant and present consciousness of their loved ones.

Some Background:


  • Ai Weiwei

    Ai is an acclaimed Chinese dissident artist, activist, and documentary filmmaker living in Berlin and Cambridge since leaving China in 2015. He also served as a cinematographer for this project. Ai was the subject of the 2012 Sundance documentary AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY.

Associate Producers:

  • Daniela Alatorre
    Past Sundance docs:

    EL GENERAL (2009)

    Alatorre is the co-founder of Mexico City-based production company No Ficción. In addition to her filmmaking work, she is the head of the documentary programming committee of the Morelia International Film Festival, which she produced for a decade. Alatorre has previously participated in Sundance Editing, Music, and Creative Producing Labs.

  • Elena Fortes
    Past Sundance docs:


    Fortes is also a co-founder of No Ficción. Prior to that, she co-founded and was the director of Ambulante for over a decade, where she remains a member of the board of directors.

Consulting Producer:

  • María Luisa Aguilar Rodríguez

    Aguilar Rodríguez is a human rights advocate with Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez (Centro Prodh), where she works against impunity to find justice and reparation for the victims of human rights violations, particularly forced disappearances and sexual torture.


Why You Should Watch:
Continuing the artist and activist’s commitment to social justice, Ai’s latest film highlights horrific and ongoing human rights abuses within a culture of impunity that threatens to leave ordinary citizens powerless. Giving voice to the family members who are facing the impact of the forced disappearances, this project stands in solidarity with their defiant struggle to find answers and hold those responsible accountable.

More Info:
Sundance’s Meet the Artist Profile

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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