(KTSF by Sean Au)
An American director takes three years to document the life of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, which also shows the awkward relationship and conflict between the artist and the Chinese government. This documentary, “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” is currently being shown at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
Ai Weiwei has been named by ArtReview as the most influential artist in the world today. Before the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Ai participated in the design of the iconic Olympic Stadium nicknamed the “Bird’s Nest.” That was when the world was introduced to the works of Ai. However, his subsequent labelling of the Beijing Olympics as the Communist Party propaganda changed his relationship with the Chinese government for the worse.
At that time, Alison Klayman was a journalist in the Chinese capital. She got to know Ai better in helping him make a short film about his art exhibition. At the end of the year, she got Ai’s approval to bring cameras into his work and personal life. Klayman was captivated by Ai’s charisma. “People should really get to know this man and they will get new thoughts about China and what the diversity of opinion that exists in China and sort of where the country is headed,” says Klayman.
Within the years of filming Ai, Klayman witnessed the transition of Ai from an artist to what some people see as a dissident. She was quick to point out that this is not something that Ai set out to do. “It is not just Weiwei’s own values that he talks about, and his political stance, but also the government’s reaction to him that help escalate things to the point of his detention.”
Klayman adds that some Chinese nationals who have seen the movie, do not view that her documentary is anti-China. She hopes that through her film, the audience can recognize values like freedom of expression, freedom of the press as well as government transparency, and question themselves what they can do to protect these rights that they enjoy.
The documentary “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” screens at the San Francisco International Film Festival and will be in Bay Area cinemas in July.
Video courtesy of Sundance Selects.
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