Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Cannes Review: Gaspar Noé's Hardcore And Softhearted 'Love' Cannes Review: Gaspar Noé's Hardcore And Softhearted 'Love' Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Cannes Review: Hou Hsiao-Hsien's 'The Assassin' Is An Epic Visual Poem Cannes Review: Hou Hsiao-Hsien's 'The Assassin' Is An Epic Visual Poem The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever Roger Deakins To Shoot Denis Villeneuve's 'Blade Runner' Sequel Roger Deakins To Shoot Denis Villeneuve's 'Blade Runner' Sequel More NSFW Posters For Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' Plus The Official Director's Statement More NSFW Posters For Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' Plus The Official Director's Statement Cannes: Watch A Three Way Makeout In The First Clip From Gaspar Noe’s 3D ‘Love’ Plus New NSFW Image Cannes: Watch A Three Way Makeout In The First Clip From Gaspar Noe’s 3D ‘Love’ Plus New NSFW Image Simon Pegg Worries That Adults Obsessed With Comics & Sci-Fi Have Become "Infantilized By Our Own Taste" Simon Pegg Worries That Adults Obsessed With Comics & Sci-Fi Have Become "Infantilized By Our Own Taste" George Miller Says 'Interstellar' Came Close To What His Version Of 'Contact' Would've Been Like George Miller Says 'Interstellar' Came Close To What His Version Of 'Contact' Would've Been Like New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season 10 Movies Booed At Cannes 10 Movies Booed At Cannes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: 'Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry' Charts The Rise Of A Multimedia Artist

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist July 26, 2012 at 6:58PM

If you were not familiar with the multimedia artist Ai Weiwei, the title of the new documentary “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” would almost seem like a countercultural taunt, perhaps with a hip-hop undercurrent. The reference is apt in regards to his art, which is at turns edgy agitprop and charmingly cheeky, much like the boundary stretching of early rap music. And with his moony eyes and mischievous grin, Ai Weiwei would not be out-of-place next to the politically-charged likes of the young Run DMC, or even Afrika Bambaataa.
0
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

If you were not familiar with the multimedia artist Ai Weiwei, the title of the new documentary “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” would almost seem like a countercultural taunt, perhaps with a hip-hop undercurrent. The reference is apt in regards to his art, which is at turns edgy agitprop and charmingly cheeky, much like the boundary stretching of early rap music. And with his moony eyes and mischievous grin, Ai Weiwei would not be out-of-place next to the politically-charged likes of the young Run DMC, or even Afrika Bambaataa.

A rebel with a cause, we meet the gregarious Ai Weiwei as both a merry prankster and a serene spirit. The immediate contradiction in his presence is glaring: even with his soft-spoken demeanor, he’s instantly the life of the party, radiating warmth when he modestly speaks of the opportunities found by those that see his art, those that can decipher the punishing oppression that his work exposes. It’s this attitude that makes him more than a multimedia artist, but rather a distinct product of his environment.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

'Never Sorry' fleshes this out by spending a great deal of screen time showing how, even in restrictive China, he manages to remain heavily plugged in with his fans. It wasn’t long ago when a media figure could be considered “ahead of the curve” by setting up a webpage of their own. Now, Ai Weiwei keeps up with thousands of enthusiastic fans via a frequently-updated Twitter feed, posting his work, his pithy political observations or simply just personal shades of himself, from photos to videos of his everyday life.

Great pains are taken to illustrate that, with this openness to fans, Ai Weiwei is almost creator-owned. Ironically, though considered a subversive by his government, it’s this level of attachment, as well as this level of political engagement, that makes him, if anything, a patriotic symbol via symbiosis. His level of engagement, and his work, establishes Ai Weiwei as an organic evolutionary response to the strength of the people and the ugly tyranny of the Chinese authorities, an extension that feeds upon itself through interactions with fans and political representatives.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

This becomes a more concrete connection when Ai Weiwei responds in the wake of a horrific tragedy, an earthquake that levels a major school. The conclusions drawn suggest that the building was poorly fortified, a suspicion fed by the government’s attempts to shut down media access to the story and neglect reporting the number and names of the dead. Revealing the links between a true artist and the person underneath, Ai Weiwei takes it upon himself to make enemies of those in power, simply for the humane act of investigating and finding out the truth about the school’s infrastructure and the names of those lost in the tragedy, names the local government refuses to disclose.

Predictably, this goes over poorly, with Ai Weiwei coping with threats and attacks from a government that answers to no one. It’s this kernel that ends up paying dramatic dividends at the film’s close, where we’re greeted with a natural roadblock to anyone seeking closure. What we don’t realize is that the 'Never Sorry' narrative is a ticking time bomb, and that government surveillance intensifies, eventually shutting Ai Weiwei down, banning him from computers, and holding him without explanation.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

The implicit suggestion, of course, is that art, and the influence and humanism of great artists, wins out. Pulling Ai Weiwei out of the public eye doesn’t erase his influence, his anarchic spirit and devilish grin spiking his innate human kindness. Any punishment less than death does nothing to stunt his words and sentiments, as he has built an army, mobilized forces who believe in making the right choice whether it flies in the face of government orders or not. 'Never Sorry' feels borderline unfinished, as it never draws that line between Ai Weiwei and the generation of successors to his throne that he has inspired. Perhaps it doesn’t have to. Perhaps you’re already one of them. [A-]  

This article is related to: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Documentary, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates