JR is an acclaimed documentary filmmaker who was listed as one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in 2018. He calls himself an artist who has been praised for his global participatory projects. Paper & Glue is an astonishing follow-up to Faces Places, an Oscar nominated documentary directed by JR and the late Agnes Varda.
The ambitious, insightful, creative, and monumental works of this legendary French artist center around social activism, equality, justice, and breaking down the walls that keep people apart. For almost two decades, he has used photographs to change our perspectives and to help us see human beings, buildings, and other structures with fresh eyes. JR uses a variety of places and settings as "unexpected canvases" to reverence ordinary people, the poor and the helpless, and all those who are invisible victims in a world of rampant change, heartless progress, and unending violence.
This documentary takes us behind the scenes to witness the thinking behind, creative origins, and final presentation of some of his biggest projects. These are collaborative projects between JR and the communities where he is working. Those pictured are given opportunities to tell their stories and the art's impact upon them.
- Above the border wall separating the United States and Mexico, a huge photograph of a Mexican toddler looks down to the U.S. side. Soon people from both sides of the border are having picnics near the picture.
- Inmates at the Tehachapi supermax prison in Southern California pose for photographs looking up at JR on a ladder. After the pictures are blown up, the prisoners paste a collage of them in the prison yard. Drone photographs from above show us the people behind those blank walls, reminding us that they have stories to share.
- In a favela outside Rio de Janeiro, large photographs are glued on the walls so that the rest of the city can see the faces they usually ignore.
- One of JR's longest projects is in Les Bosquets housing development in Paris, a ghetto complex in a state of ruin. Photographs of residents making funny faces pasted around the city remind us of the power of art to unite people, even as the complex itself is torn down.
- In a Paris school, aspiring photographers and artists learn from JR the potential reach of their creativity: "The role of the artist is to show there's something else, to change people's perspective on life."
In a statement, JR explained his feelings about the film:
"Paper & Glue is a film that challenges viewers' perceptions by lifting the voices of people and places that are often overlooked. The film is the culmination of years of my work and includes an archive of photography and videos that span back to my adolescence. At the time of many of these recordings, I had no intention or awareness they could be used in this way. To have my work come full circle exemplifies the power of film, and the power of Paper & Glue. I hope this film further uplifts the essentiality of art and the potential it holds to reshape even our most ingrained beliefs. By challenging our expectations of people and places, I hope to change our greater perceptions of the world."