“Blogs and the internet are great inventions for our time because they give regular people an opportunity to change public opinion.”
Perseverance is admired. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is an in-person documentary of China’s preeminent radical conceptual artist. Art photography, post-modern sculpturing, Internet docs, and Twitter are the tools of the trade for Ai Weiwei, whom in first impression has the appearance of a Big Wrestler Panda, ahem Kung Fu Panda. I have to admit that before I got to know the subject, I figured him to be a heavyweight blowhard with Andy Kaufman antics. Instead, he’s quite the intellectual philosopher, vocalizing at an engaging and non-threatening level with his disciples. Yes, the Republic of China to this day is corrupt and imprisons artists for subversion.
The truth is I never knew that the police state that is China… is a police state. At least to a degree, it’s true, and Ai Weiwei has gained hundreds of thousands commoners as followers because he’s more humane than the government. The cameras mostly follow him around, doing his business, getting clocked in the face at one point by police. I never quite understood his multi-millions of sunflower seeds in one auditorium as an abstract artistic expression, but when the government tears it down because they see it as a subversive threat to break up Chinese allegiance, it makes you think how little it takes to upset the monarchs of power.
Ai Weiwei doesn’t protest the teardown as you would expect, he does something far more subversive – but gentle. He throws a crab-eating festival for his followers which brings in legions of fans. This proves to be a far greater outrage. I’m pretty sure that if Ai Weiwei was a beanstalk he wouldn’t have become such a spokesman. He has projected a body, and a forceful voice (tweeting along with activism), that has made him a modern day titan and revolutionary. Does the government finally silence him at the end? $2.4 million taxation on his home and business will shut anybody up for the time being.
It’s easy to see how Ai Weiwei has used this film about himself as his new forum. But the war is on-going, and so this isn’t likely the last film you’re likely to see with him. Next time, perhaps he will bring in another director with a stronger forte in multimedia techniques.
91 Minutes. Rated R.
DOCUMENTARY / FOOD FOR THOUGHT / WEEKDAY POLITICS VIEWING
Film Cousins: “General Idi Amin Dada” (1974, Britain); “To Live” (1994, China); “Comandante” (2003); “Last Train Home” (2009, China).