There would have been a time when the mere mention of a Chinese artist would have been the precursor to a great shout of 'Who?' Ai Weiwei changed that. It is doubtful that there has been a more famous artist in the world ever since the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the world saw his instantly iconic (co-designed with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron) National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest. Since then, a whirlwind biography records a Turbine Hall commission at Tate Modern in 2010 and the hand painting of some one hundred million sunflower seeds and a series of detentions by the Chinese government.
Despite his high profile media presence over the past four years, this is an interesting film. Director Alison Klayman is sensitive to the artist, who needs no sensitivity given. He is strong, controversial and uncompromising. The film follows Ai as he seeks legal action from an assault on him by the Chinese police, as well as documenting his preparation for the Sao Paolo Biennial and his Tate Modern commission. We see his home life, and his relationship with his mother and son.
I was hesitant to see this film, feeling a little overkill from the attention that this man gets. In an interesting response, a sub-theme involves Ai's communication and self-promotion as an important tool for planning his projects and gaining recognition for the harsh repression of civil liberties in China currently. And this too is a purpose of the film. And if only for that reason, it is well worth your time.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is on limited release.