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Ai Xiaoming

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Convert your grief into power; say everything you need to say; keep on walking the road you must travel.
Ai Xiaoming wants to make a record of China's "barbaric totalitarianism" for future generations. (Source: Ai Xiaomin)

Ai Xiaoming is a documentary filmmaker, author, and women's rights activist. Ai has frequently collaborated with documentary filmmaker Hu Jie. She is professor emerita of literature and women's studies at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou.

Ai was born in the southern city of Wuhan in 1953. She earned her bachelor's in Chinese from Central China Normal University in 1981, and her Ph.D. in Modern Chinese Literature from Beijing Normal University in 1987. She was the first woman after the Cultural Revolution to earn her doctoral degree in literature. Ai taught at Chinese University of Hong Kong and Lingnan University before joining the faculty at Sun Yat-sen University in 1995, where she taught until her retirement in 2014.

In a 2016 interview with Ian Johnson, Ai said that didn't participate in Tiananmen protests, though she did visit the encampment several times. She became an activist later on, in the 1999-2000 academic year, when she was a visiting professor at the University of the South in the U.S. She was inspired to research women's issues, which eventually drew her into China's once-vibrant circle of rights defense activists. The trip also turned her attention away from writing (she is the author of eight books and has translated many others) and towards documentary film making.

Ai went on to translate and produce the "Vagina Monologues" at Sun Yat-sen and direct several university projects in women's and sexuality studies. She has also made films about Tang Zuoren's investigation of the "tofu dregs schools" that collapsed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, villagers in Henan Province infected with HIV after giving blood, the 2011 Wukan protests, and many other cases of injustice.

Ai's films are banned in mainland China, and she is currently unable to leave the country. She was awarded France's 2010 Simone de Beauvoir Prize for her work on women's rights, but was not allowed go to receive the award. Still, Ai continues to produce them as a record of the "barbaric totalitarianism" she has witnessed in China today.

"Investigation by Citizens," Ai's film about the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake is available with English subtitles on her Vimeo account.

Ai Xiaoming on CDT

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