Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei is a complicated man. Depending on who you ask he’s a nosy citizen or a genius artist. The recent documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry follows the artist’s story from a young man observing life and creating art in New York City to his more recent troubles with the Chinese government as he struggles to reveal what he believes is the truth.
As far as documentaries go, this one by Alison Klayman is smart, concise and thorough. Ai is no saint but he’s also no sinner. As friends, family and industry experts speak about his important both in the art scene and in China, Klayman shows scenes of a touchy Ai refusing to meet fans that are friends of friends or handing his self-made documentaries out left and right.
But it’s the work that Ai has devoted his time and, quite literally, his life to that’s so noteworthy. Among his projects is an attempt to uncover and publish the names of the thousands of children who lost their lives in a 2008 earthquake. Ai’s struggles with the Chinese government runs not just parallel to his projects but is deeply intertwined. Klayman documents not just his recent disappearance for alleged tax crimes but also his fight against a local police officer who Ai says assaulted him.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is must see, especially for anyone who followed the artist’s recent detention in the newspapers. This film offers a closer look at what really happened and continues to unfold.