Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour 31 minutes, Rated R
Written & Directed by Alison Klayman (feature-film debut)
Art always seems to be at the forefront of change.
In the documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, we get a fascinating glimpse into the artistic and socio-political culture of China. The film focuses on Ai Weiwei (pronounced “Eye Way-Way”), an internationally renowned artist and activist, who literally flips the bird at the repressive Chinese Government responsible for squandering their freedom of expression.
Ai Weiwei is a charismatic and quiet man, thought of around the world as one of the most influential artists in the modern world. He helped design the Olympic stadium used in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and in 2011 he ranked #1 in ArtReview magazine’s annual Power List.
The film gives us some insights about the man, but if focuses more on Weiwei’s political mission. Here is someone not afraid to stand up to the powers that be, even though several artists before him have been imprisoned for opposing the government.
One fascinating element in the film is how Ai Weiwei uses modern technology to expand his reach and therefore his influence. He is shown utilizing Twitter and Facebook, uploading snapshots to back up the things he is commenting on. He videotapes much of what he does, and has created several documentaries that uncover corruption and scandal in the Chinese government. Take for example, a 2008 earthquake which resulted in the collapse of several schools, which were poorly built. The government never did release the death toll of children, so Ai Weiwei took to the streets to document just how many kids lost their lives, tallying them one by one directly from the families.
The nature of documentaries is that you sometimes don’t quite know where they’re going to lead, and where this film chooses to leave off is both shocking and under-whelming. Ai Weiwei is at a different place now than he was when this film began covering him, and it speaks volumes to just how difficult it is for one man to fight a power like China.
Still, all revolutions - all change - begin with leaders like Ai Weiwei. This documentary introduces us to him and gives us rare access to a society that isn’t shown all that often. Sadly, we don’t leave with hardly enough. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry seems to only scratch the surface on a topic that could have been way more impactful…both in unveiling the corrupt underbelly of China and in revealing more about Ai Weiwei himself.
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