Disturbing the Peace

Year: 2009

Duration: 79 min

Disturbing the Peace is a documentary of an incident during Tan Zuoren's trial on August 12, 2009. Tan Zuoren was charged with "inciting subversion of state power". Chengdu police detained witnesses during the trial of the civil rights advocate — an obstruction of justice. 

Disturbing the Peace, shot with a handheld camera, documents a day in Chengdu in which Ai Weiwei, lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, and others try to find out what happened to one of the artist’s assistants, after she has disappeared into police custody following a raid on her hotel room. The original Chinese title of the film is “Lao ma ti hua”. The film shows the frustrations and obfuscations of a heated interaction with the Kafka-esque Chinese justice system.

The record of Ai’s encounter with the justice system ends when police eventually force him to turn the camera off. The missing assistant was released two days later.

Tan Zuoren was charged as a result of his research and questioning, regarding the 5.12 Wenchuan students' casualties and the corruption resulting in poor building construction, and was subsequently sentenced to five years in prison.