Having gone into this one not knowing anything about passionate artist and activist Ai Weiwei, I afterwards felt a sense of embarrassment. As a figure of great importance to free thinkers around the world, Weiwei is one of the last true dissidents and his exploits should be required reading. Thank goodness filmmaker Alison Klayman decided to document the various plights and day to day struggles of the Chinese governments most feared citizen and the resulting "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry" is an inspiring cinematic experience about freedom - but with a price.
It’s hard to believe that a man who years before was courted by the government to help design Bejing’s iconic Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium would end up being on their hit list of folks who scare simply with words and images. Coming out against the Games as party Propaganda, Weiwei started a controversial trend of honesty through art that shook the very core of Chinese culture. Whether it was taking photos in front of the infamous Tiananmen Square with his middle finger extended, dedicating himself to searing memorials for over five thousand school children that died in shoddy government construction when the powers that be wouldn’t, creating art that reflected the turbulent, troubled and distinctively un-free Chinese society he saw or even using something simple as Twitter or leave profound messages of hope and change, Weiwei proved to be a loud singular voice that shows that one person can indeed make a difference.
But there was a cost to such anarchy and rebellion. On the professional side Weiwei was targeted, badgered and even attacked by police - so much so that he was forced to go to hospital and get surgery. On the personal side of life there seems to be a real disconnect between Weiwei and various family members. Whether it be culture, society or merely the man himself, Director Klayman shows someone determined to get his message across no matter what the cost and to say his relationships have been strained and moved to a lower importance is an understatement. (But thoroughly engrossing!)
Which leads the cautionary part of the story. In April of 2011, Weiwei disappeared into police custody for three months and when he did reemerge his spirit had definitely taken a beating. It’s so obscene how when people fear change, the arrival of new thought and the exposing of truths not talked about some folks feel the need to beat it into submission. Equal parts wonder and woe, "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry" shows the good, bad and the ugly of a David and Goliath story where the only weapons being brandished are ideas.