By Jackson Booth, Contributor
“Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry” made its way to Film Streams on Friday, Aug. 24. This stunning film documents the artistic dissidence of Chinese activist Ai Weiwei. The film will run through Sept. 6.
Weiwei was born in Beijing, China and spent most of his childhood there. He came to New York City in the 1980’s as a student and experienced the life of an urban artist. In 1993, Weiwei moved back to China and gradually expanded his art galleries in Beijing.
Director Alison Klayman presents Weiwei as a sui generis that pushes the boundaries of free expression, especially in a nation like China.
The film begins with Weiwei describing his contempt for the way the Chinese government handles human rights, including illegal surveillance, physical brutality, denied free speech and access to information.
Most notably, Weiwei presents a situation in which the Chinese government would not release the number of students killed by an earthquake in a poorly constructed school in Sichuan, China in 2008.
Weiwei takes the incident and creates art that brings attention to the corruption. In doing so, he creates a wall that has a list of the names of children killed. The work is on display in his gallery in Beijing.
Weiwei uses his art to present his ideas for democracy in China. Some of the most famous venues he uses to promote political discourse aside from physical art are Twitter and the middle finger.
While provocative, Weiwei has used countless visual tools to bring to light the human rights abuses happening in China. Weiwei has produced a number of galleries that have been showcased all over the world including Asia, Europe, and North America
The film does an exquisite job of showing how Weiwei mixes art and political discourse. It also shows how his willingness to talk to the media about his opinions, including the making of this very documentary, has led him to some trouble.
In one scene, Weiwei is shown at his hotel room after a night on the town. The local police knock down the door of his room and begin harassing him. The incident ends with Weiwei getting punched in the head and later having to have surgery for brain swelling.
Toward the end of the film, Weiwei is questioned by police and then disappears for 81 days without explanation. This created a media firestorm which later involved Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Weiwei was later released but was constantly under surveillance and even his blog was shut down, but that did not stop him.
Weiwei continues to be an activist and artist in hopes of one day bringing lasting change to China.
In telling the inspiring story of Weiwei, Klayman did an excellent job with both the cinematography and storyline of the film. Although “Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry” was about the work of a political artist, the film is a work of art itself.