[Documentary] Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

This documentary is about a Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei who fight against the Chinese authoritarian regime through his artwork and use of social media. The film not only recorded how he prepared his show at the Haus der Kunst in Munich and exhibition of 100 million-ceramic porcelain piece, in the mean time, the director Alison Klayman also filmed his time when he got beaten up be the police; how his studio was razed by the government and in the end, how Ai Weiwei was detained by the Chinese authorities for over ninety days. Some of the main political context dealt in the film including non-transparency of information, authoritarian ruling of China communist regime and how the government act only in the favor of the authority people in the top and punish anyone who is trying to change or influence the public.

For instance, during the Sichuan Earthquake, many victims were children who died in poorly built government schools that collapsed. Contacting with the government he only received this kind of message: “The death toll is a secret. What do you want this name list for? Are you some kind of American spy? ” Therefore, Ai Weiwei and his team launched a citizen’s investigation to learn more about the student deaths.However, after posting the students’ names, the authority shut down his popular blog and installed surveillance cameras at his home studio. The strict censorship in China could be connected to our course material, where we have discussed how the internet in China is under full control of the government, especially social media such as Sina blog. This has led Ai Weiwei to close his blog and open a Twitter account so that his material is not controlled by the Chinese government, as a way to bypass China’s “Great Firewall” of Internet censors. Another point of the documentary that could also links to our course material would be the cultural revolution. In the film, Ai Weiwei’s father, a poet named Ai Qing is the victim of the cultural revolution. Despite Ai Qing’s devotion to the Communist Party, he became an enemy to the people and exiled to the western China for 19 years of re-education through labor.

Ai Weiwei is not merely an artist in my eyes: he cares deeply about the life of the general public and his fight for freedom, fairness and social justice despite all the hinder and setbacks. It is shocking to me how Chinese government always use economic problems as an excuse to interrogated or imprison political opponents and journalists critical of the government. Since Chinese government have employed high tax rate but there is hardly law enforcement, almost every company in China would have some form of tax evasion in order to survive and complete with the opponent. The violation of law would then be used as a weapon to anyone has seen as a threat to the authority, even within the Chinese Communist Party who has an agenda that is different from the president. And in the film, Ai Weiwei is a example that is being interrogated about his online activities and press interviews under the name of the tax evasion. Upon his release, he is not able to make any comments since he was still in probation. I think this is an absurd and recidivous way to silence a person without breaking the law.

The filmmakers did an effective job in presenting the materials. The director not only show Ai Weiwei’s political movement but also show his family, wife even his mistress to construct a holistic view of the artist. I also love the metaphor in the beginning of the film. Ai Weiwei is the only cat that knows how to open the door, the invisible mental barrier the Chinese government has posed on its people. However, there are certain limitations. First and foremost, the documentary is more about he showcase of the persona of Ai Weiwei than it is informative about his art or the issues involved. Anyone who is less familiar with the issue happened in China, such as the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, would be confused. The documentary also did not illustrate any of his artwork, including the rationale behind the ceramic porcelain piece in exhibition. I also have to argue that everything is biased, including this firm. Both Ai Weiwei’s mother and wife was interviewed, but only his mistresses/ his two-year-old child’s mother was just briefly appeared. The audience has not opportunity to listen to her opinion about the artist nor their child. On the other hand, Ai Weiwei spent over 20 years in New York when he was young; thus his ideal was largely shaped and influenced by the Western viewpoints and ideals. In China hardly anyone would know Ai Weiwei because the Chinese government would block any news regarding any political movement while some may also argue that the only reason Ai Weiwei succeed as an artist is because of the obsession of the criticism of the human rights problem in China by the West.

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