DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
AI WEIWEI:NEVER SORRY (director/writer: Alison Klayman; cinematographer: Alison Klayman; editor: Jennifer Fineran; music: Ilan Isakov; cast: Ai Dan, Ai Lao, Ai Weiwei, Lee Ambrozy, Danqing, Ethan Cohen, Feng Boyi, Gao Ying, Gu Changwei, He Yunchang, Hsieh Tehching, Huang Kankan; Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Alison Klayman/Adam Schlesinger; Sundance Selects/IFC Films; 2012-USA/China-in English and Mandarin, with English subtitles)

"Klayman never demonizes the authoritarian Chinese government, as her purpose seems to be to show how difficult it is to be a rebel in such a closed society as China."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

A not completely satisfactory documentary that chronicles Chinese shock artist and activist Ai Weiwei without fully getting into his head, as he prepares for a series of controversial exhibitions and gets into an increasing number of clashes with the Chinese government. His works include helping to design Beijing's Bird's Nest stadium for the 2008 Olympics, filling the Tate Modern's Turbine Hall with 100 million ceramic sunflower seeds (symbolizing his belief in many ideas) and openly challenging the government by uncovering the government-suppressed names of thousands of schoolchildren killed in the Sichuan earthquake.

First-time filmmaker Alison Klayman was working as a journalist in China when the unpredictable Ai Weiwei was detained in 2011 by the government and held for 81 days. Klayman has full access to the artist (such as footage from his 12 years working at a NYC gallery and video material recorded by Ai and his assistants). She shows the artist advocating for transparency from his government, as he tells the world through the Internet he doesn't care for China's Olympic stadium (the remarks were not reported in China) and defies the government by releasing all the names of the schoolchildren killed in the earthquake, something the government refused to do. Klayman never demonizes the authoritarian Chinese government, as her purpose seems to be to show how difficult it is to be a rebel in such a closed society as China.

The film is interesting but at times awkward in its presentation of Ai Weiwei as an artist and a spokesman for human rights in China. Klayman fails to make it clear why Weiwei's art and activism should matter to us, but it does get across that the artist loves his country and would die for his belief that that diverse ideas should be welcomed, liberty be extended and the government should be more transparent. The artist is most famous for a series of photographs that feature his extended middle finger superimposed over Tiananmen Square, which perhaps tells you all you want to know about the artist who made it on his own without attending the state run art school like most of the other recognized Chinese artists.

REVIEWED ON 11/26/2012       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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