Explosive documentary honors pyrotechnics artist

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The documentary Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guoqiang will debut in Chinese mainland theaters on Sept 22.

Poster of Cai Guo-qiang's documentary Sky Ladder [Photo provided to China Daily] 

Cai is known for pyrotechnic artworks. He's among the Chinese artists who are most celebrated in the West.

The feature is directed by Oscar-winning auteur Kevin Macdonald. It's jointly produced by IDG Capital's chairman, Xiong Xiaoge; Netdragon Websoft's chairman, Liu Dejian; and Chinese-American businesswoman, Wendi Deng.

Xiong says he's a fan of Cai and persuaded the artist to join the project when they were on an overseas flight.

The producers offered Cai a list of directors.

Macdonald was selected because he has limited knowledge about the artist and his achievements, which allows him to use an easily understood storytelling approach to introduce Cai to a wider viewership.

Sky Ladder, the artwork performed by Cai in a fishing village in Quanzhou, Southeast China's Fujian province. [Photo provided to China Daily] 

Macdonald and his crew followed Cai for three years, from his New York office to his home city of Quanzhou in East China's Fujian province.

The documentary includes interviews from several sources close to Cai.

A highlight is his work Sky Ladder — a 500-meter ladder made of rope and gunpowder hung from a giant hot-air balloon over a fishing village in Quanzhou in 2015.

It was a dream project that Cai had attempted to realize for over two decades. He failed multiple times previously.

The documentary is also considered a birthday present to Cai's 100-year-old grandmother, who supported his artistic pursuits.

It was released to critical acclaim on Netflix on Oct 14, 2016.

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