The artist, whose movements have been restricted by Chinese authorities, was chosen because he is a “symbol of the repression of artists and journalists,” festival director Git Scheynius told AFP.
“He is one of the most interesting artists on the planet right now. He can’t express himself and he has been in jail because of his regime-critical opinions,” Scheynius said, adding it was unlikely Beijing would grant permission for him to attend the festival.
“But he was thrilled, he said he loves films and is looking forward to taking part.”
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The theme of the international festival this year is “freedom” and Scheynius said she hoped it would highlight the plight of journalists and artists unable to perform their work without the influence of censorship.
“We’re doing this to put pressure on the Chinese authorities,” said Scheynius.
It was unclear how Ai Weiwei would participate, as organisers said he currently has no Internet access and is difficult to reach, but Scheynius said she was “optimistic” about his involvement.
The annual festival will run from November 6-17 with more than 180 films from over 50 countries in competition.