Movie Review: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012) #atozchallenge

This is my entry for “A” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “A” documentaries I’ve reviewed are Africa: The SerengetiAmerican Experience: Blackout,  and American Experience: Into the Amazon.

Title: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
Release Date: April 16, 2012
Director: Alison Klayman
Production Company: United Expression Media

The documentary spends some time with the Chinese artists Ai Weiwei in the years between 2009 and 2011.  While Ai is shown supervising the creation of his sculpture by his assistants and attending the openings of installations in various parts of the world, the crux of this film is his activism.  Events covered include his organizing a team to collect the names and birthdates of school children who died in the collapse of substandard buildings in 2008’s Sichuan Earthquake which eventually total over 5000 names he displays on a wall.  He also is depicted being beaten severely by the police in Chengdu when he went there to testify at a fellow activist’s trial.  The Chinese government shuts down his blog and then demolishes his studios in Shanghai.  But Ai persistently attempts to work through the channels of bureaucracy to find justice, where many others would give up as intended by the system.  His family and fellow artists are interviewed and flashbacks through photographs reflect on his time in the New York City art scene in the 1980s.  Near the conclusion of the film, Ai is arrested and held for 81 days with the final scenes depicting him upon his release.  It’s a powerful film statement and surprising for the material captured on film that the Chinese government wouldn’t want people to see.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary: This film shows a good example of the role the artist can play as an activist. Ai Weiwei challenges the government’s lack of transparency through provocation and creates art to memorialize the  children lost in the collapsed schools who would otherwise be anonymous.
If You Like This You Might Also Want To …: See some of my photos from Megacities Asia exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, which includes some works by Ai Weiwei.

Source: I watched this movie on Netflix streaming, and it is also available to Hulu subscribers.

Rating: ****

8 thoughts on “Movie Review: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012) #atozchallenge

    1. Thanks for the comment. There are definitely as many different ways to make one see the world in a new way as there are artists.


    1. He did seem a bit defeated at the end of the movie when he was released from prison, but luckily the end of the movie is not the end of his story and Ai Weiwei persists.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! One thing I’m observing is that these nonfiction movies use lots of different tricks of the trade to dramatize and tell the stories. And as we’ll see with the “E” documentary and some others there are questions of whether what were seeing is even real.


  1. Thanks so much for putting me onto this, Liam. I do what little I can to encourage the Golden rule around me, but this guy just takes it to another level. It shocked me that 5000 people died in that building collapse. I didn’t realize. It can be difficult for me to watch the news at home what with the kids, stuff that’s on and preparing dinner, but its so important to be a citizen of the world and not just your own backyard.
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

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