Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is the first feature-length film about the internationally renowned Chinese artist and activist, Ai Weiwei. In recent years, Ai has garnered international attention as much for his ambitious artwork as his political provocations. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry examines this complex intersection of artistic practice and social activism as seen through the life and art of China’s preeminent contemporary artist. He is a sculptor, a painter, a muralist and a lone spokesperson in China who opposes the oppression of his country and the lies that he feels they tell. He dares to speak his truth in what is happening behind the closed doors through his artwork and his words. This movie entranced me from the beginning with its humor and information. It was beautiful and frighteningly ugly to see Ai Weiwei’s story. So much so, that I would love to have him in our Creative Spotlight someday…
Interestingly, the last quarter of the film turns into a mystery story. While the film was in production, Ai Weiwei vanished – presumably he’d been taken into custody. Needless to say the news fuelled global outrage at how the Chinese authorities deal with people who are only asking for basic freedoms. But by silencing him they only make his ever-growing supporters louder. And Klayman documents their support in all its glory: clips of Hilary Clinton singing his praises alongside other eminent figures all help the cause, and thankfully he’s eventually released. Internet shutdowns lead to Ai Weiwei utilizing Twitter to communicate each and every step of his drama. Brutality from the government was evident. They wanted him shut down and would do anything. Ai Weiwei’s future was at stake, but he will risk everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, in order to ensure that his son will have a better future.
What is amazing is this doc is just as much about technology as it is about Ai Weiwei’s fight. Eventually, Ai Weiwei is beaten by police, fights for justice against the policeman who wronged him, and has many artists and friends around him who are imprisoned or go missing. This is all documented for the world in the only way Ai Weiwei can: through Twitter. With the Chinese government unable to restrict anything Ai Weiwei does on Twitter, he is free to share his stories and any information he finds through the social website. The only downside being that Ai Weiwei himself is indeed work in progress, a mere sketch of what is to come. So when the documentary finishes, the story is far from over. Either way, one of my favorite parts about watching a documentary is hearing the stories I would never hear otherwise and coming to a better understanding of other countries, cultures, and struggles for both.
This documentary was one of the most emotional, educational, yet somehow still entertaining documentaries I have ever had the honor of seeing. This was real life. This was a man wanting to change the world. That really puts all the rest of us to shame. We take so much for granted. The Facebook posts I see from “friends” who disagree with Obama and can say so with no fear of death or beating. Ai Weiwei didn’t have that luxury. We have freedom. We take it for granted. This documentary is an eye-opener. It needs to be seen and it comes highly recommended.