Friday, February 17, 2012

Documentary Film Review - Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry

This documentary takes us inside the life of Chinese artist and dissident Ai Wei Wei.  We first meet him in his Beijing compound, talking about a cat.  He lives with more than 50 cats, but has a special affinity towards one of them.  "Only one cat has the ability to open doors,"  recounts Ai Wei Wei  (Cut to a broll shot of the special cat jumping 5 feet off the ground and on the way clipping the doorknob, landing on four paws, and sleekly sliding through the open door).  "If I didn't have this cat, I would never have known that cats could open doors."

That cat, of course, symbolizes Ai Wei Wei.  There are many Chinese people, but not many who dare to challenge the regime the way he has.   There is definitely only one Chinese person with the courage to create an internet meme called, "Fuck You Motherland."

In his gigantic, fortress like art/living compound with surveillance cameras honed in on him and government agents lurking constantly, Ai Wei Wei seems as happy as can be.  He mocks the authorities by making fake surveillance cameras as pieces of art.  He drops ancient and priceless pieces of pottery or spray paints the Coca Cola symbol on them.  He makes documentaries that travel beyond the "Great Firewall of China" to report what is actually happening there.  He is a rebel after my own heart.

His mother worries about his safety and in one candid scene she breaks down and weeps for her son, imploring him to subdue his antics. Yet, Wei Wei possesses the same quality that all freedom fighters and truth tellers seem to possess.  A sublime calmness and confidence in what he does and how he lives.  He is well aware that he could lose his life and/or freedom at a moment's notice.  But why would that get in the way of pursuing a righteous cause?

Ai Wei Wei is a superhero among men, one of the greatest human rights heroes of our generation, and a brilliant communications professional.  His rabble-rousing and rebellious artworks are broadcast to his loyal legion of social media followers on Twitter and elsewhere.  He knows just how and when to use the medium to promote his cause, get messages out, or just to say "Fuck You" to the Chinese government.

Filmmaker Alison Klayman @awwneversorry uses Ai Wei Wei's Twitter feed @aiww as a storytelling device.  We see him typing and then the film progresses, showing us the real-life drama that ensues before, during, and after typing those 140 characters.  The film ends with a brilliant piece Wei Wei made for the Tate Art Gallery in London, importing tens of millions of sunflower seeds and filling up the gallery showroom with them.  He said the piece was inspired by Twitter itself, and the tens of millions of free voices that can not be suppressed.

Check out the official film trailer here and make sure you follow @aiww on Twitter.

艾未未: Never Sorry 纪录片预告片   (中文字幕) from Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry on Vimeo.

Film Swag included Chinese take out boxes with fortune cookies inside.
My fortune read, "Once you've tasted freedom, it stays in your heart and nobody can take it from you.
Then you can be more powerful than a whole country." -Ai Wei Wei

The film's PR people even stamped our hands 

Me doing my best Ai Wei Wei impression

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was such an interesting story. I had a heard about this film but I loved how you described him as a hero daring to challenge the regime like no on else! I really appreciated that you covered this film and included the pictures even the one of the stamp from the film's PR people. After watching the trailer and getting the sense of the film from your article, I was intrigued and ready to find out more about this interesting AI WEI WEI.