News / Asia

Documentary Profiles Ai Weiwei's Political Activism

Penelope Poulou
A documentary about the Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei is being released across the United States, just months after the dissident's year-long probation in China was lifted. The film, by first-time director Alison Klayman, presents the artist as a creative force and a digital crusader, in addition to being a fighter for human rights.

For years Ai Weiwei lived abroad where he created art installations. But for more than a year, he hasn't been allowed to leave China.

Now, Alison Klayman's film, Ai Weiwei Never Sorry, shows the artist as a proponent of freedom who is digitally connected to the world.

The film shows how Ai defied the government by researching the deaths of several thousand schoolchildren in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and then listing their names. The government had refused to name them.  

"He put a call on his blog to do an investigation," recalled director Alison Klayman.  "He called it citizen's investigation to go out to all the areas, collect the names, go to the parents, go to the schools, and he ended up gathering over 5000 names of children who died."

He also started an investigation into the shoddy construction of schools that caved in while students were inside.   

Klayman says Ai Weiwei's activism is an integral part of his art. 

"I think no matter what he does, he self-identifies as an independent artist and in the end it's all motivated by this same desire to express himself, to communicate," she said.

Ai was arrested on April 3, 2011 and detained for three months. Although his bail restrictions were lifted in June, he still has not been allowed to leave China.   

Despite that, he continues to use social media to bring rights issues to light. Klayman says Ai's activism has been contagious.

"You see all the people who are influenced by him and are just as active as him online and they may be lawyers and they may be housewives and they've never gone abroad," said Klayman.  "You don't have to be exposed to the West or to another culture to be drawn to these issues of the rule of law and transparency and freedom of expression."

Klayman called her documentary Ai Weiwei Never Sorry as a take on the artist's installation "So Sorry." Ai used that name to mock the Chinese government's apologies after the earthquake.

"Obviously 'Never Sorry' seems a lot more to be the attitude that Weiwei stands for, that he unapologetically and steadfastly will be promoting no matter what," said Klayman.

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Comment Sorting
by: l from: js
August 15, 2012 12:04 PM
you,american's media is full of false 2008'tibet event,someone in west change deliberately the truth by weaving some story that did not happen at all.i dislike you all because we never want to hurt you,but at the same time you always uglify weiwei was arrested just because of Economic crime.ok,i know you think i may be an official or even a sodier who serve Communist Party.i am just a normal high school not believe?i dont care.i love my country just like you love america,and we have human right such as voting right ,medical care and so on.i admit that there is something bad,but is america perfect.american troopers could killer innocent Pakistani troopers or people without saying are always right because you are the first,and we should be second time ,i will write a acticle called 'american never sorry'.

by: Cindyooy from: Gz,China
August 06, 2012 10:52 AM
I cannot deny that maybe we can't live a fully human right in China, but not for the medicial care or some social welfares but the corruptions that we cannot even notice .So that just like we live on our own and obey the situation ,over which our control.I know who is the chairman,premier,however ,what the hell that matters to me ?!

by: Cindyooy from: Gz,China
August 06, 2012 10:52 AM
I cannot deny that maybe we can't live a fully human right in China, but not for the medicial care or some social welfares but the corruptions that we cannot even notice .So that just like we live on our own and obey the situation ,over which our control.I know who is the chairman,premier,however ,what the hell that matters to me ?!

by: jill from: china
August 05, 2012 6:26 AM
The people in China has no human rights!
In Response

by: CK from: Viet nam
August 05, 2012 11:21 PM
A lot of people are dreaming about human right which is being violated right in the US. They talk about no overtime working for laborers while many have to work 10 hours in the US! Many color natives have to live under poverty without medicare and households. So it means every country has its own problem. You guys don't argue against each other for this vague issue.
In Response

by: jill from: China
August 05, 2012 9:42 PM
I am a Chinses,and I can tell you ,here, even the basic human rights are not,for example, freedom of english is poor,please forgive me
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
August 05, 2012 12:22 PM
@jill, you mean they dont have human rights AT ALL? or you mean they dont have complete human rights? If it is the second, then tell me which country has? don't tell me it is USA, they dont even have a fully covered medicare, and those waiting for food stamps, how can they have human rights?

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
August 04, 2012 8:09 PM
Pay your tax please! you rich arts smuggler! So many poor Chinese labours work on the minimum wage of $15 a day.
In Response

by: Anonymous
August 05, 2012 6:51 AM
The wage of me is less than $15 a day

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