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Turning Haiti, Tunisia and the West Bank inside out: A documentary on JR’s worldwide participatory art project to air on HBO tonight

Posted by: Kate Torgovnick May

“We use images like a weapon to fight for social causes,” says a man in the trailer for INSIDE OUT: The People’s Art Project, a new documentary that airs on HBO tonight. The doc tells the story of JR’s INSIDE OUT, a global art project in which anyone, anywhere, can send the artist a portrait and have a poster-sized version sent back to them for pasting in public spaces. JR: My wish: Use art to turn the world inside out JR: My wish: Use art to turn the world inside out Since the project’s launch in 2011, when JR received the TED Prize, these oversized black-and portraits with a faded polka dot motif in the background have become a fixture on the walls, fences and sidewalks all around the world. To date, more than 130,000 INSIDE OUT posters have been pasted in more than 100 countries.

INSIDE OUT: The People’s Art Project, directed by Alastair Siddons, isn’t about untangling the identity of JR  — who always appears in public wearing Ray Bans and fedora. Instead, it aims to show how people around the globe have made this fascinating project their own. Yes, cameras show JR in his Paris studio but, from there, they travel to Haiti, where photographer Benoit has pasted up dozens of images of those living in tent cities following the devastating earthquake of 2010. The message: that while hardship continues in the country, people remain infused with hope.

The film goes on to bring viewers to North Dakota and the West Bank, where major INSIDE OUT actions have been launched, as well as to Tunisia, where portraits of everyday people are revolutionary in and of themselves. “We were always seeing pictures of the dictators,” says an INSIDE OUT artist in the country. “Now it’s people—Tunisians.”

INSIDE OUT: The People’s Art Project premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in April. And tonight, the film makes its television debut on HBO at 9pm ET/PT. The documentary will also be available on demand through June 30. Find out more about the film and its airdates at HBO’s website »

See JR interviewed about the documentary by Christiane Amanpour last Friday »

Are you or someone you know interested in launching a worldwide project on the scale of INSIDE OUT? Nominations for the 2014 TED Prize are open, from now until June 16 »