If you spent any time watching the 2008 Summer Olympics you most probably saw the amazing art work of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (pronounced “Eye Way-way”), most notably the “Birdsnest” stadium. But it is not only for his art that Weiwei is known. He has been very vocal about his political leanings and his troubles with the Chinese government are well known. And though this film purports to be about the man and his craft, it’s much more than that.
Ai Weiwei is a man whose vision is often achieved with the help of others. “I’m his hands,” explains one sculptor, working on a piece for an upcoming exhibit. As we get to know Weiwei we also get to know those around him, from his friends to his mother to his young son. He is very charismatic and it’s easy to see why those close to him love him.
But even those he is closest to can’t often protect him. After reporting an assault a year ago with no assist from authorities in solving the case, he marches to the local police station, followed by a camera crew, to find out why. Eventually he angers those in charge enough that he is detained for 81 days, only allowed to visit with his mother for one twenty-minute period during that time. When he is released he seems contrite, but soon he returns to his “in your face” ways and attitudes. When his fellow countryman Liu Xiaobo is awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, an award that was mostly kept from the Chinese people because of Liu’s beliefs, Weiwei is shown celebrating the award, going as far as to mention the prize on Twitter. He shares a favorite saying of Weiwei’s that permeates his character: “Never retreat – – -Re-Tweet!” This allows the outside world to learn of crucial things happening in the country, 140 characters at a time.
A powerful film that teaches us as much about ourselves as it does it’s subject, “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” is a sure bet to be nominated for an Oscar come January 2013.