When I spoke with Arnon Goldfinger about his documentary The Flat, he asked me what I thought about. I essentially told him that I liked it, and from my point of view, The Flat was very informative and allowed me to learn about a bit of history and a culture that I knew very little about. Going into Alison Klayman’s documentary, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, it was somewhat different because I knew more about China and their people than I did about the Israeli’s and their past in Nazi Germany.
With that being said, I knew that my knowledge of China wasn’t very deep, so I was expecting to witness some things that I didn’t see coming ahead of time. This documentary begins as Ai Weiwei is preparing for two shows that are going to showcase some of his latest artwork. One of his art shows is taking place at Tate Modern in London, while the second will be held at the Sao Paulo Biennial.
During this short period of time in which this documentary focuses on the build up to his art displays in London and Sao Paulo, you’ll notice something that may be a bit unusual for an artist. I found it interesting that this guy is a premiere artist, but he rarely does his own work with his hands. From seeing this, I believe that in the eyes of many, it’s not just the art itself that makes the artist. The ideas that the art is based on is the backbone of their work. That’s the most important thing, because sometimes you can do it on your own, but there are other instances where you need a team due to the size of a project.
Regardless of how he gets his work done, in the world of art, Ai Weiwei is known very well outside of his homeland of China, and he had to take great lengths to reach the level of notoriety that he’s received in that world. As the documentary continues, it takes a look into his past. That way, we get to see where he comes from and what made him into who he is. This part of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry takes up a short amount of time without losing a sense of the actual time the film was taking place.
That’s where viewers will see that this isn’t truly about his art or even art in general. Klayman’s documentary is about the continuous fight for certain rights and freedoms that a number of Chinese civilians believe that they should have. That fight is a difficult one and it rages on because people like Ai Weiwei have been leading the way for an extremely long time.
His fight for his cause isn’t what we Americans may think of when we hear about revolutions and standing up against the government and their laws. In a country like China, the people who are fighting are doing so for many of the things that we have always had. You see from Ai Weiwei and his supporters, that they want people to have the ability to be independent artists or whatever it is that they choose. They don’t want the restrictions that they feel are going overboard in the country that they call home.
Ai Weiwei and others may believe, that while things have changed a bit, there is still a large amount of work to be done in the country of China. It’s important to people like him, because he believes that everyone should be allowed to express themselves in a liberated fashion without “big brother” hovering over your shoulder ready to take you down at the blink of an eye.
When it comes to “big brother,” Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry contains what would be considered highly controversial material in China. That government appears to control a lot and there doesn’t appear to be much that any individual can do about it. As I watched the film myself, I just couldn’t understand the restrictions that have been set over there. For the most part, it seemed excessive and I’m sure there are several people around the world that agree.
I’m only one person, and I’m sure my opinion doesn’t count for much in the grand scheme of things in China, but seeing at least some of what goes on over there is eye-opening although I already knew about some of it. Some of the citizens that live in that country feel as if the international portion of society doesn’t get an honest view of how everything is handled. They feel like the Chinese government creates a representation that will fit the ideologies of the outside world while maintaining a strict order of life with a limited ability to move.
Klayman shows this without being intrusive or judgemental about how they practice the law in this country of over two billion people. Her job is to simply let the viewer know what Ai Weiwei believes in, his life experiences and what’s going on around him. Klayman never attempts to tell you what to think and the goal is not to show right or wrong from her point of view. She allows Ai Weiwei and others to tell the story as her and her team record it for the masses.
Because of this style, it allows for an honest and fascinating look at a world that most of us will never see or experience first hand. Doing this does allow for us to see things up close and personal, while also allowing us to form our own opinions of what’s taking place, what has taken place and what might take place in the future.
I don’t know what the future holds for this country and the people who call it home, but I do hope that they get some more freedoms given to them. With some of the stuff that I saw in Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, it’s difficult not to pass judgement on the Chinese government. In this review, I tried to be neutral in that sense, but I can’t. You have to give your people some more leeway.
Let them breathe a little bit more. I’m not saying that China has to be like America or anything, but the citizens of China should have more room to express themselves. What’s the big deal if they’re not hurting anyone or causing major problems? Artists want the opportunity to be unique, and I even if they don’t admit it, I’m sure many of the artists and citizens who live in China feel the exact same way.
Through Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, we get to see how many view this situation. I suppose it may change one day, but I don’t know if it will be anytime soon. I do believe that people in China will continue to be active in their desire for more freedom and Ai Weiwei looks like he’ll still be in the center of it. He showed the audience of this documentary based on his life a good portion of what he’s up to, both as an activist and as a person. If he’s willing to do that, then his will is going to be difficult to break. You may be able to say that about his supporters and the Chinese government.
Director: Alison Klayman
Release Date: Jul 27, 2012 (Limited)
Distributor: IFC Films