(KTSF by Sean Au)
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is named by ArtReview magazine as the most powerful artis in the world today. He is, however, seen by many in China as a dissident. The documentary “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” captures the process through which Ai transitions from one of the most celebrated Chinese artists to one of the most vocal critics of the Chinese government.
Ai Weiwei received international attention as the “Bird’s Nest” designer who was chosen to build Beijing’s Olympic Stadium. In the same as the Beijing Olympics, Ai criticizes the Chinese government’s response to the Wenchuan earthquake in May, which angered the Chinese authorities. Ai further denounced the Beijing Olympics as the Communist Party’s propaganda, a move that further had the government turned against him. Toward the end of 2008, journalist filmmaker Alison Klayman had Ai’s go ahead to chronicle his life and work. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. As it turned out, Klayman had a front row seat witnessing how Ai became someone the Chinese government scrutinizes.
The movie shows the Wenchuan earthquake in May 2008 as the turning point. From Ai’s trips to Wenchuan to know first hand the devastation of the earthquake and his calls for the authorities to investigate into shabby school constructions, to a night when Ai was beaten up by local police officers, to his attempts to lodge a complaint against the officers, the process shows the bureaucracy that exists within the Chinese authorities. Ai further uses Twitter to inform his followers within and outside of China of his plight.
The audience needs to know that this is not a documentary that is anti-China. Director Alison Klayman did not have a specific idea on how the documentary would take shape while filming. Nobody had anticipated what would transpire. Call it being at the right place at the right time, Klayman’s camera captured the events that led to Ai’s 81-day detention in 2011. She hopes that her film inspires the audience to help to protect certain rights that many of us take for granted, and not just within China’s borders.
“The freedom of expression, transparency, independent press or independent judiciary,” says Klayman. “Just how it is really important that we need to be vigilant and safeguard those values around the world.”
As a result of this, less screen time is dedicated to Ai’s achievement in art and his private life. This emphasis makes the audience wants to know more about this artist. In this aspect, the documentary has already succeeded.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Video courtesy of Sundance Selects.
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