Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012) Poster

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One Man Can Make a Difference
Pamela Powell27 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I'll be honest, I am not a political activist. I am not on top of what's happening in the world or in politics both nationally and internationally. And I have one thing to say about that after seeing this movie. Shame on me! For those of you who don't know him (I didn't until this January), Ai Weiwei is a political artist and activist. He is a sculptor, a painter, a muralist and a lone spokesperson in China who opposes the oppression of his country and the lies that he feels they tell. He dares to speak his truth in what is happening behind the closed doors through his artwork and his words. This movie entranced me from the beginning with its humor and information. It was beautiful and frighteningly ugly to see Ai Weiwei's story. He was followed by a group of documentarians who filmed Ai Weiwei and interviewed those around him, from his mother to his wife, friends, and child. Ai Weiwei was depicted as a bright, articulate, and talented man who wanted to make things better for the next generation as he felt his father's generation failed him. Utilizing his art, Ai Weiwei told horrific stories of what the government has covered up. We continued to watch as Ai Weiwei pushes the governments buttons and the envelope. The government was filmed trying to intervene with Ai Weiwei's attempts to communicate what the government was doing. Internet shutdowns lead to Ai Weiwei utilizing Twitter to communicate each and every step of his drama. Brutality from the government was evident. They wanted him shut down and would do anything. Ai Weiwei's future was at stake, but he will risk everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, in order to ensure that his son will have a better future. No fictional movie could have been written to depict a stronger leader and spokesperson than Ai Weiwei. This was real life. This was a man wanting to change the world. That really puts all the rest of us to shame. We take so much for granted. The Facebook posts I see from "friends" who disagree with Obama and can say so with no fear of death or beating. Ai Weiwei didn't have that luxury. We have freedom. We take it for granted. We are spoiled. Think twice the next time you have an opinion and voice it either to a friend or on-line. There are no repercussions. Ai Weiwei wants the citizens of China to have that same freedom.

This documentary was one of the most emotional, educational, yet somehow still entertaining (and sometimes funny!) documentaries I have ever had the honor of seeing. Seek out this movie. It's a limited release, but worth the drive to see it. It will change you and how you view the world. How many movies can do that?
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A well-made and often inspiring film
Howard Schumann2 September 2012
"There are individuals who come along in certain periods of time who advance the human spirit to the next level." – actor James Newcomb Heroes are not only those who achieve unprecedented success, but those who create possibilities for others. "Breakthroughs" according to Werner Erhard, "are created by …people who will act to make possibility real." Such an individual is Ai Weiwei (pronounced "Ay Way Way") a Chinese artist and political activist whom Time Magazine named as runner-up for "2011 Person of The Year." Directed by Alison Klayman, the compelling documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, winner of a Special Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival, follows Ai Weiwei pursuing his sculpture, architecture, curating, photography, film, and other arts in a political system that does not hesitate to use force, repression, and censorship against those they see as threats to the Communist government.

Ai Weiwei's father was Chinese poet Ai Qing who was denounced and sent to a labor camp with his wife, Gao Ying, an event that had strong repercussions in Ai's life. Ai Weiwei lived in New York from 1983 to 1993 where he studied and worked as an artist. While in New York, he created conceptual art by altering ready-made objects. He also compiled 10,000 photographs that were shown in an exhibit at the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre in Beijing and became the subject of a 20-minute film "Who's Afraid of Ai Weiwei" shown on PBS in 2008, a work that was expanded to produce the current documentary.

Using interviews with friends, family members, fellow artists, and young followers, Klayman describes Weiwei's involvement in the Sichuan Earthquake Names Project which listed the names of 5,000 student victims who lost their lives because of shoddy construction of schools, his criticism of the government's use of propaganda to support the Beijing Olympics whose Bird's Nest Stadium he helped to design, and his provocative use of humor in his exhibit using photographs showing his extended middle-finger in front of Tiananmen Square. Weiwei says, "There is no outdoor sport as graceful as throwing stones at a dictatorship." The film also documents the artist's exhibitions in Munich, especially a work called "Remembering" which displayed 9,000 backpacks spelling out the words "She lived happily on this earth for 7 years," a reference to students who were killed in the Sichuan earthquake. Another exhibit shown at the Tate Gallery in London consists of 100-million porcelain hand-painted sunflower seeds made in China. Though China claims that human rights have improved in their country, Ai Weiwei's assault by police thugs attempting to prevent him from testifying at the trial of Tan Zuoren belies the claim. Zuoren, an activist and recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for several articles that, according to Weiwei, were reasonable and not at all provocative.

One of the most important aspects of Weiwei's activism is his use of social media, especially Twitter (@aiww), an activity that he began in earnest after his blog was taken down by the authorities. This is demonstrated by his ability to quickly organize resistance to the government's proposed demolition of his newly-built art studio in Shanghai which they deemed "illegal." Though the documentary breaks no new ground as an art form and only skims the surface of Ai's personal life, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is a well-made and often inspiring film about an artist who is willing to take enormous risks for his own safety to expose human rights abuses and which reaches a new level of intensity when it is discovered that Weiwei has disappeared, leading to world-wide protests and an uncertain outcome.
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At first glance, the cameras that surround the studio of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei appear to have been placed by the man himself as a mode of security.
coltens1415 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
It is not until the lens of Beijing journalist Alison Klayman pulls in for a closer look that the troubling truth is revealed. These cameras in fact represent the ever-watchful eye of a frightened government that Ai Weiwei views as his opponent in an eternal chess match.

Moviegoers unfamiliar with the fearless titular muckraker of Klayman's invaluable documentary, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, are practically guaranteed to become instant fans after seeing this richly involving portrait. There is perhaps no greater champion of individuality and its inherent power than this controversial icon, whose distinctive works powerfully function as both art and political statements. Consider his famous photographs in which he shatters a Han Dynasty vase, thus conveying that the past, however sacred, must be done away with in order for necessary reform to be achieved.

Ai Weiwei's field of 100 million individually-made sunflower seeds represent the diversity of ideas that remain repressed by the bureaucratic regulations of his country's communist party. No doubt some of his revolutionary spirit rubbed off on Klayman, who utilizes various clips from Ai Weiwei's self-made documentaries that he distributed for free online. The footage chronicles his activism and the abuse that he has endured at the hands of government officials. Klayman has echoed her subject's philosophy by openly admitting in interviews that she hopes her film will be pirated, acknowledging that such a crime could help spread Ai Weiwei's message past the boundaries of American art houses.

This is not the sort of stuffy, pompously ponderous doc that audiences view as the cinematic equivalent of nutritious yet tasteless vegetables. Klayman has made an immensely entertaining picture that garners a great deal of its mileage from the irrepressible charisma of Ai Weiwei himself, who subsequently appeared in his own send-up of PSY's "Gangnam Style" video. He is not above poking fun at himself, but he is immensely serious when it come to the message that he intends to convey through his work. There is a visceral thrill in watching him thrust his middle finger at corrupted monuments such as the White House and the Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium for which he served as an artistic consultant. He quickly turned his back on the Olympic Games in protest upon learning of the migrant workers being forced out of Beijing prior to the festivities.

One of the most powerful sections in the film centers on Ai Weiwei's enraged response to his government's utter refusal to investigate the faulty construction that may have dramatically increased the number of schoolchildren who perished in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. To further avoid sullying China's image, the government did not even make an effort to release the names of the deceased children, a disgrace that prompted Ai Weiwei to collect them himself. After posting the names on his blog to commemorate the one year anniversary of the tragedy, he displayed them in the form of a massive list accompanied by the audio recording of citizens reciting the names. Suddenly, the simple profession of the children's' very existence became an act of rebellion in itself.

Klayman's film takes the form of a thriller as it explores Ai Weiwei's failed attempt to testify at the court hearing of Tan Zuoren, a fellow investigator of the student lives claimed by the earthquake. Audio was captured of the violence the occurred when Chengdu police broke into the artist's hotel room and bludgeoned his head, causing a cerebral hemorrhage that required emergency brain surgery. With a boldness evocative of vintage Michael Moore, Ai Weiwei confronts one of the officers who beat him while being followed by his trusted crew. It is clear to him as it is to the viewer that justice will continually evade his grasp, but that is not reason enough for Ai Weiwei to give up on his righteous crusade. He may not receive an apology from the cop, but at least he will capture his sorry face on camera.

The story that Klayman unspools is so compelling that it registers as somewhat of a disappointment when it ultimately proves to be unfinished. Ai Weiwei's 81-day incarceration where he endured psychological torture at the hands of police received an international outcry in favor of the artist's release. Following his bail in 2011, Ai Weiwei was unable to give interviews and was not even permitted to leave the country. Klayman's decision to end her film in the midst of this dire crisis was perhaps unavoidable since the artist's unquenchable hunger to provoke ensures that his troubles with police will continue until his dying day. Though police claim that Ai Weiwei was arrested purely in the basis of tax evasion charges, Klayman's film makes a thoroughly convincing argument to the contrary.

At an effortlessly watchable 91 minutes, the film does leave certain aspects of Ai Weiwei's life underdeveloped, particularly his complex relationship with his devoted wife, who conspicuously vanishes from the film after it is revealed that her husband had a child with another woman. This detail may seem irrelevant to the film's central subject matter, but it is crucial in portraying Ai Weiwei as a flawed human being rather than a larger-than-lie saint. He has no desire to be worshipped, anyway. His single hope is that the vital truths his work illuminates will resonate with the multitudes, and that is precisely what has begun to happen. Ai Weiwei's status as a close runner-up for Time's Person of 2011 parallels the triumph of Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize soon after being sentenced to 11 year in prison for "inciting subversion of state power." If these extraordinary activists prove anything at all, it is that one's power and influence can indeed transcend the boundaries of a governmental gag order. Ai Weiwei is more than a mere artist or activist. He is an indomitable force on nature.
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Portrait of the artist as an activist
evening113 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Powerful documentary about a brave and provocative man who travels with a camera crew as they challenge the Chinese government.

Ai Wei Wei, seemingly the only man in China who wears a beard, seems an artist of considerable talent. But he directs his greatest energies toward criticizing and questioning a regime that returns the attention with monitoring, harassment, and abuse. Ai has become a lightening rod for controversy since he started asking about a recent earthquake in Sichuan that killed 5,000 children when their schools collapsed.

Strangely, this film doesn't mention why Ai would hold the government responsible for a natural disaster. But I have learned elsewhere (see my review of "China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province") that the quake destroyed schools, leaving other buildings intact, arousing suspicion that corruption allowed for shoddy "tofu-like" construction. Ai has rightly asked officialdom why it doesn't investigate the tragedy.

The film documents a stunning tribute to the child victims in an art show mounted in Germany that creates a message in Chinese characters from 5,000 multicolored backpacks. Yet the filmmakers never tell us what the characters mean! Additional footage is devoted to a bizarre work installed at London's Tate Modern in which 100 million lacquered sunflower seeds are raked out in a giant frame, for viewers to tread and sit on as they please. This odd work's significance from Ai's perspective isn't explored at all.

This film includes much disturbing footage of Chinese police and military personnel harassing Ai, allowing him to build a studio and then tearing it down, and at one point clobbering him on the head in an attack that requires brain surgery. It documents Ai's abortive efforts to file a police report and lawsuit. The Chinese government comes off looking bad as people in the street obviously recognize the artist -- a tireless poster on Twitter -- and seem to encourage his efforts.

Ai is a man of few words who speaks in simple terms, yet his statements often resonate. A burly person who is often filmed at table, he patiently answers questions about having fathered a child out of wedlock, a young boy who never says anything on camera and is often seen handing Ai things to eat.

Near the end of the film, we learn through titles that Ai disappeared in 2011. The words come as a blow because by the time they appear the viewer has bonded with the activist. As I had taped this film, I rushed to Wikipedia to discover Ai's fate.

As the film points out toward its end, Ai was arrested and detained for several months, then finally released with restrictions on his ability to speak to the media and travel abroad. We see startling scenes of a seemingly chastened Ai declining to speak to the press. However, we're told as the film draws to a close that Ai has gone on to resume his Twitter efforts. Phew! (Whether he's allowed to leave the country remains unclear.)

This documentary spends some time noting that Ai's fame offers him some amount of protection. But how much, exactly? He's had his head pummeled, his studio demolished, and his freedom seized. One wonders what's next but hopes for the best.

This film is best for making the world aware of an intriguing and important public figure. He deserves our attention and protection.
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Truly Inspiring & Fasciniating
Larry Silverstein1 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I must admit I knew virtually nothing about the Chinese dissident and artist Ai Weiwei before his detention and disappearance, in 2011, which made world headlines. This documentary, directed by Alison Klayman, does a fine job of capturing the life of Weiwei, who I found to be a very brave and charismatic figure. The film, I thought, was quite inspiring to me and also quite fascinating.

The opening scenes show one of Weiwei's cats, who has learned to jump high and put his weight on a door handle and open the door, which is pretty amazing. Then Weiwei in his sly humor states that cats are different than humans because they have no inclination to close a door after they've opened it.

His father was a renowned poet in China, but was sent into exile for re-education for 19 years. I imagine this is where Weiwei's iconoclastic spirit began. The movie traces his 12 years in New York City, where his brilliant art conceptions took root. When the crackdown in Tiananmen Square took place, in 1989, Weiwei participated in hunger strikes and demonstrations in protest. In 1993, he returned to China to be with his ailing father, who eventually passed away three years later.

Most of the documentary focuses on Weiwei's continuing struggles to achieve more freedom for the Chinese people in a very authoritarian and controlled society. He seems to be in a continual struggle with the government, which shut his blog, surveilled his comings and goings, and even did nothing when security guards beat him in a hotel room, causing his brain to swell, nearly killing him.

When the Sichuan earthquake struck China there were over 5,000 children killed, mostly from poor construction of schools, per the film. While the government wanted to keep the names of those who died secret, Weiwei began to identify all the children who died and had people from around the world read one name of each child on his Twitter page, to the consternation of the Chinese government.

While some of his compatriots were imprisoned for speaking out against the authorities, such as Liu Xiaobo, Weiwei had escaped that fate. Many felt this was due to his worldwide notoriety, with his shows being so popular in many countries. However, in 2011, he was detained and for nine months held in seclusion. He was eventually released and apparently has slowly resumed his actions to achieve more freedom for the people there.

The movie, I thought, was quite inspiring to me, and I found Weiwei's calm but revolutionary spirit to be quite special. The film also gives the viewers a seldom seen inside look at what's going on in China today.
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Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
lasttimeisaw20 November 2012
Ai Weiwei is an internationally acclaimed Chinese artist-activist who is provocatively condemning his motherland government for grave social underbellies (in light of an unbalanced economy acceleration) as corruption nonfeasance and misfeasance among officials, systematic injustice, moral languor and freedom repression (a focal point is the aftermath of Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, whose casualties are over 80,000, among which are many children stayed inside shoddily-built school buildings) and valiantly spearheading (not the least in the artist field) a new wave of self-awakening among his fellow compatriots, which has promptly wrought government's mistreatment and investigations, all up to a somewhat "mysterious" disappearance during 2011 for half an year, then later ostensibly claimed by the Chinese government as a series of tax evasion interrogations of Ai's company, then subsequently Ai has been forbid to neither leave Beijing for one-year nor to speak about the matter.

So if one is all familiar with the story, this documentary has rather little novel to offer, first- time director Alison Klayman covers a quite comprehensive range to introduce Ai's art, family and the (short but carefully-selected) comments from his friends and peers, but all falls short of incisiveness and compassion. The family card is an omnipotent weapon to probe a more personal facet of the artist himself (his illegitimate son has been briefly discussed here) which could induce empathy for every single viewer, however, this is a common-law generally fits under any similar context, the real Ai Weiwei is still elusive and taciturn.

With such a contentious figure, Klayman seems to choose a very conservative story-telling which is exuding from a sheer westerner's point-of-view (a lone fighter against the all-evil oriental and dictatorial institution, surely the truth is much more intricate as we all know), still a shred of information betrays Ai's hooliganism in his own tactic, which would arise more interest (at least for myself).

All in all, the film has attest to that Weiwei is a true artist (he is not exploiting all the controversies to grandstand his art work) if nothing else, and by the way, if anyone who is really into Ai's artwork, this documentary is not recommended for you unless you have never heard of his ground-breaking SUNFLOWER SEEDS exhibition.
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a powerful documentary about one man's fight for an entire country
tbmforclasstsar23 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
There are times when I watch a documentary that I realize I am incredibly under-educated on real world issues. Perhaps my head is to glued on the silver screen and television for me to stop and actually research international issues or maybe I am in a country where Kristin Stewart cheating on Robert Pattinson is the only news I hear about for days at a time. Either way, one of my favorite parts about watching a documentary is hearing the stories I would never hear otherwise and coming to a better understanding of other countries, cultures, and struggles for both.

This is exactly how I felt after seeing the documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. The story of a very popular artist trying to make change in China, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is a great definition of David vs. Goliath; the everyday man against a system and a country that tries to hold him down.

While Ai Weiwei is a very famous artist in China, this film is not necessarily about his art. It definitely covers some of his major pieces that he has done to raise questioning and explanations for the deaths of thousands in China from a deadly earthquake, but the doc is more about his personal fights to try and raise knowledge world-wide and striving to have the country explain many of the "accidents" that have occurred.

The main incident that begins this entire journey is Ai Weiwei's attempt to find out more information on thousands of children that died in school collapses resulting from an earthquake. The main concern is that Ai Weiwei believes shoddy architecture, which he refers to as 'tofu' construction, was what caused the schools to collapse and that the tragedies could have been avoided.

The reason this actually becomes a story is not because he wants to find out the names of the children that died, it is because the government has not released the names AND tries to hinder Ai Weiwei in finding all the names himself. The government shuts down Ai Weiwei's online blog and squashes any of his attempts to question families and communities about the deaths.

Eventually, Ai Weiwei receives over 5,000 names by using mail, interviewing families in person, and using Twitter. What is amazing is this doc is just as much about technology as it is about Ai Weiwei's fight. Eventually, Ai Weiwei is beaten by police, fights for justice against the policeman who wronged him, and has many artists and friends around him who are imprisoned or go missing. This is all documented for the world in the only way Ai Weiwei can: through Twitter. With the Chinese government unable to restrict anything Ai Weiwei does on Twitter, he is free to share his stories and any information he finds through the social website.

To read the rest of the review (IMDb form too short) visit:
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Never Sorry
politic198325 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Ai Weiwei isn't just a hilarious name to say to any Englishman but also a name associated with freedom of speech in modern day China. An artist by trade, Mr Weiwei is now more (in)famous for saying 'fuck you' to the Chinese Government than putting any brush strokes to canvas.

'Never Sorry' is the documentary from debut director Alison Klayman resulting from her four years following China's most famous artist as he travels around China and the world causing further and further headaches for local police and the Chinese Government. Concentrating as much on political acts than artistic ones, the film shows the importance of Twitter and social media in a country such as China, showing as many of his status updates throughout the film as Richard Herring will commit in a 90 minute period.

The balance between politics and art is well maintained throughout, reminding that he has actually done some good works over the years - as well as breaking some old pots - while showing the political motivations in his work through interviews with various peers and colleagues over the last three decades.

But saying 'fuck you' and breaking some vase-thing doesn't come without its fair share of problems. Various confrontations with police, sometimes violent, are shown, as well as his non-mysterious disappearance in 2011 and the momentary stem in the flow of his freedom of speech. The documentary is more about freedom of speech than a biopic of an artist, using him as an example of the impact of social networking, as well as what happens when the rules are broken.

There are some weak points, such as the mystery around his son with a woman that isn't his wife – a topic that his wife is not questioned on and which he is coy – that is only mentioned and not explored; and his confrontation with police while sticking cameras in their faces probably provokes a response from law enforcement that would be met in most nations in the world.

As noted, the fact that someone like Ai Weiwei exists shows that there has been some change in China over the years, though the fact that his words are met with such strong response from the Government shows that there is still a long way to go before China becomes a nation where people can freely express their opinions to the world on Twitter without fear of arrest and prosecution – unless, of course, you're a Premiership footballer.
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The commonality of Ai Wei Wei and Prophet Nathan
samuelfitlee12 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This documentary covered a serious look in various aspects on the Chinese artist/ activist, Ai Wei Wei. He was quite famous even before his 2008 Beijing Olympic main structure, Bird Nest. The shooting style was rather straight forward. As a documentary, the most important thing is the subject of the documentary. Definitely, Ai Wei Wei was an interesting subject that does not require a lot of enhancement work in other areas. The documentary was very rich with interview like local culture blogger, colleague, friend, wife, son's mother, mother and himself. More importantly, couple events like following up with the assault cases in very tense situation does capture attention because it is real event with some hidden camera. In one of his art, he dropped a two thousand year old Han Dynasty Chinese urn and toke picture of it. At first, people might though he was an insane post-modern artist who was acting weird with his new age behavior art. He also painted over those antique urns with funky bright yellow and blue color. It may be a heartbroken experience for those antique lovers. Later, he explained the city of Beijing was just like those Han's urns. The city was torn down for new development. That was of power of his art which making strong statement and interesting parable. His expression echoed the prophet in the Bible like Prophet Nathan. Prophet Nathan told a story of how a greedy rich man ripping of the poor to King David. King David was very upset of this story. But, Prophet Nathan later pointed out that King David actually was the one who ripped off the poor by taking someone wife and murdered her husband. Both of Ai Wei Wei and Prophet Nathan had the power of using parable to have a sneak behind attack before the defense system was setup.
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I know that my comment is not conducive to the film , and perhaps this site to delete
user-674-9899381 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
For the things that people say . Sichuan appeared more or less I do not deny.But he saw only the problem,I hate , who has two sides.Two sides of things if you only care about the one hand, while ignoring the other hand , the result of the ability that you put it out is wrong.I'm sure at the people have not been to China , has been a long time have not been to China,See China in the with Decaying backward view.I can tell you , AI MO MO this man if he is in your country , you will hate .You in the West is very strong after the original capital accumulation , although China's rapid and stable development.But there is a great distance away from you,Western you with your concept of rules to measure the world has many years,Is he must be right !No, definitely not.You want the world to follow the development of your wishes , I can tell you , your power becomes increasingly weak.I can clearly tell you that your government spends much money to subvert the Chinese cause a lot of trouble to China every year, civilians die . A Soviet Union has been to topple , but China will not .We do not believe in God , we believe that our hands , I believe that the power of labor ; nor do we believe that your so-called democracy , we believe that our system . We may not be the best of peoples , but it is certainly an .Of course, some of us likeAI MO MO ,But they are small, can not keep us out into the future,Some of them will be forgotten , and some will always do nails like Jesus on the cross as shame was nailed in China. In a word, came to China to bring good meal time , in Post your comment
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