Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Oftentimes art is portrayed as an entity of itself, isolated from the reality of human life and society, an exploration and reflection of the intimate self. However, in Alison Klayman’s documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry , the bond between artist and society is vividly manifested. When asked how he thinks of himself as an artist, I was expecting a deep or humble statement of the simplicity of his art as would suit the common Chinese etiquette when faced with such an inquiry. To my surprise, Ai answered, “I am a chess player…I make a move when they do…Now I am waiting for my opponent to make the next move.” This statement changed my perspective of the film as a whole and became the underlying driving force of his art and actions throughout the movie. Ai’s work relies greatly on the reality of the present realities of the Chinese government; his inspiration and motivation stems directly from the political and social environment he lives in.

The film documents certain aspects of present Chinese society fairly successfully, as proven by the groans of longing emitted by the audience when images of street food came on screen. It lends the foreign viewer a taste of the modern Chinese social environment. However, the documentary fails to emphasize the fact that many of Ai Weiwei’s followers, and thus his influence, are outside of China, because his main way of publicizing himself and his ideas are through Twitter, which is banned in mainland China. Though his influence in China may be a bit exaggerated, the film is extremely successful in presenting the portrait of Ai Weiwei as a bold and outspoken critic of contemporary China. Having lived in China for half of my life, I have experienced personally the failings and corruption of the government, and the position and attitude that Ai establishes within the same environment I grew up in gives me not only great inspiration, but a new kind of optimism- not blind and disengaged hope, but acknowledgement of the reality of oppression and having the willpower and courage to make one’s voice heard despite of it. 5/5 Stars.

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