‘Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry’ Movie Review – The Art of Expression
It’s really easy to take technology for granted. While I sit here typing this thing out to publish digitally for the world to see, I even forget it. In the same vein, it’s really easy to take freedom for granted. Then, a documentary like Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry comes along and gives you a bit of a reality check. Technology can be the frontier for social change…and in this case, social change needs to take place in China. By looking at China through Ai’s point-of-view, Alison Klayman’s informative documentary gives us a lot to latch onto, while highlighting a topic we should all know about.
Starting out a bit lighter, the material builds darker and darker. And while the story is still ongoing, there’s a bit of irony to how it inevitable turns out.
For some background on Ai, I should let you know that he’s a Chinese artist (among plenty of other things, including an architect, photographer, and critic) who believes in art as “freedom of expression.” In China, though, freedom isn’t the same as it is in America. Many Chinese artists, whether traditional or not, struggle with what they can or can’t, should or shouldn’t, “say” through their art. It’s unfortunate just how much control the government has on what should be a free enterprise.
Instead of going with the flow, Ai decides he’s had enough. He’s not willing to back down to the government and their propaganda. Through a collection of footage he once shot (for another documentary) and additional material brought forth by the journalist-turned-director Klayman, Ai’s brave story is brought to screen.
Of course, the irony is that this film won’t be playing anywhere near China (that’s my guess at least). For American audiences, we’re lucky enough to see it now. Even luckier for me, I got to see this film as part of the 38th Seattle International Film Festival a few months back. As you may recall, it was my favorite documentary of what I saw.
When you step back and think about more than just the film, it’s amazing just how much Ai put on the line while standing up for what he believed in. Not only did he risk censorship, but that pails in comparison to the bodily threats him and his family risked by speaking out. He captured the minds of many, but it wasn’t like he had a following that reached around the world. Fortunately, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (the movie) is a way to reach out to more people.
Much like Exit Through The Gift Shop, art as expression serves many functions. Personally, this is why I love movies so much – they’re able to capture culture through story-telling. In the case of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, we’re able to see social and cultural activism through art. Obviously based off real people and real footage, Alison Klayman’s documentary is a great tale of bravery, sacrifice, and expression as a precursor for real change. It’d be nice if this film played overseas, but if they can’t see it, we sure as hell better!
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry opens in limited release starting today. Look for it in theaters near you or in the next few weeks as it hopefully adds more screens.
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