DOXA 2012: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry could not be more timely
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (USA)
Clearly, Alison Klayman’s fascinating documentary on Chinese artist-dissident Ai Weiwei could not be more timely. With the recent dustup over the escape of blind activist Chen Guangcheng, and China’s arrest of numerous other outspoken intellectuals in his wake, the country’s brazen human-rights infractions are in the spotlight.
Klayman captures the authorities’ target here in all his stubborn glory. We see the massive, brilliantly subversive installations that have made him an international art star: the room full of 100 million hand-painted, porcelain sunflower seeds at London’s Tate Gallery (among other things, a comment on Maosim and the “Made in China” masses) and the thousands of children’s backpacks he arranged on the façade of Munich’s Haus der Kunst Museum (a chilling ode to the students buried by an earthquake in Sichuan, their deaths underplayed by Chinese authorities). But just as important are his battles waged via social media, which are arguably artworks themselves: the photo documentation of his own beating by police, or a Twitter campaign for different people to each read aloud the name of an earthquake victim.
Klayman’s artfully constructed doc raises all kinds of questions, especially about the meaning of art and artistic freedom in the technological age. She wins unprecedented access to Ai and shows the suffocation of living under surveillance, from the video cameras police have installed around his home’s walls to the undercover officers watching his every move. But, to its credit, her film doesn’t gloss over its subject, tracing the compelling personal history that brought Ai to his near-reckless political stance, and revealing his personal flaws (just wait till an unexpected family member pops up). What emerges is a man, as wry and quietly angry as his artworks, who simply won’t be silenced—until, of course, the alarming final chapter of the film. Let’s hope he roars again.
DOXA presents Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry on May 12 at 7 p.m. at Empire Granville 7 Cinemas.
Watch the trailer for Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.