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Movie Review: In the dazzling documentary Sky Ladder, a Chinese artist aims high

Some documentaries work as investigative journalism, while others function as slice-of-life storytelling. There’s also the subgenre of doc that’s largely experiential, inviting the audience to witness a performance or event that they’d otherwise never get to see. Kevin Macdonald’s Sky Ladder: The Art Of Cai Guo-Qiang encompasses a little bit of all of the above. A portrait of an ambitious and often personally conflicted environmental artist, Sky Ladder has a lot in common with the likes of Rivers And Tides and the Maysles brothers and Charlotte Zwerin’s Christo films, in that it creates a permanent cinematic record of work designed to be ephemeral. But Macdonald also captures the long, hard struggle of Cai Guo-Qiang to realize some of his grandest projects, often over the objections of his own government and patrons.

The primary focus of Sky Ladder is Cai’s long-gestating dream to create a …

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