Alison Klayman, a young American journalist, first met Ai Weiwei when she shot a video of the Chinese opening of his show of New York photographs in 2008. She ended up following Ai Weiwei during the pivotal year when his radical sentiments concretized around his responses to the Sichuan tragedy. The resultant film records the artist’s work internationally as well as in China.
In Munich, he mounted a show called “So Sorry,” which depicted the official responses of many governments to atrocities that have been committed in countries worldwide. In a moving and visually arresting display, Ai Weiwei had 9000 backpacks mounted on a wall, representing the dead students of Sichuan.
Later that year, at the Tate in Britain, he installed a 100 million ceramic piece called Sunflower Seeds, which reflected Ai Weiwei’s concern over mass consumption. The installation was sold for the phenomenal figure of $558,000, indicating the artist’s prominence in the global art world.
It’s that reputation that has made Ai Weiwei safe until now. He has, of course, been released from house arrest. What will he do now? Klayman has no answer, nor does the artist.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry documents a critical time in this Chinese artist’s life. Not entirely hagiographic, the film does deal with Ai Weiwei’s extra marital relationship with one of his female friends and his rather arrogant dealings with his wife, brother and mother. Still, you can’t help but admire an artist who took a photo, which placed his extended middle finger in the foreground of a shot of Tiananmen Square. Ai Weiwei is an artist willing to take on the most powerful government in the world. Alison Klayman’s documentary offers insights into a courageous activist and artist.