Sunday, January 6, 2013
Day Six - Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, or "I'm wasting my freedom and, subsequently, my life."
A while back Gomez (whom you can find as @weyrddude on twitter), had us watch Indie Game: The Movie for our podcast. A few weeks before that, it was Jiro Dreams of Sushi at my request. Somewhere in there, I cannot remember when chronologically, Brit (whom you can find as @britward on twitter, as well) had us watch This Film Is Not Yet Rated.
Well made documentaries are those that both inform and inspire.
Never Sorry does just that.
With footage taken from interviews over several years since his rise to prominence and activism after his involvement and public spurning of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, continuing on to his work documenting the Sichuan earthquake, and his various installations and shows, Never Sorry shows many personal, artistic, and political snapshots of both the man and the geopolitical world he creates in.
I find it interesting that most of his modern work is delegated to folks under his direction, a point the film makes early on, and that his input is mostly telling folks what he wants done. It seems like it separates him from the visceral part of the act of creation, but... what do I know? I'm a writer, not an artist.
Still, it's tough not to feel like I'm a waste of space in the world when there are men out there like him who are doing very brave things in very dangerous ways. This fact is hammered home about a quarter of the way through the film when a raid is conducted late at night during his stay at a hotel and a policeman reportedly struck him. Later, on a trip to Germany for an installation, he requires brain surgery because of it. The entire thing (though not the inciting blow itself) is recorded digitally as Ai Weiwei is very much a documentarian of both his life and his work, as the two are very much intertwined.
Of course, there is human drama as well. Early in the film we meet his adoring wife. Then, in the second act, we're introduced to his infant son who was born from a mistress. The film acknowledges it, even sort of showcases it, but still there is an aire of delicacy. I never saw his wife again and we only briefly get a glimpse at the strain it put on his marriage via an interview for his Sunflower Seeds installation at the Tate Modern.
I think the scariest part of the documentary for me, and rightly so, was when the looming shadow of the PRC actually does move against him in 2011 and he goes missing, held for 81 days for a supposed financial investigation.
Like you need to be "disappeared" with no comment from the government for dodging taxes.
Having only previously heard of Ai Weiwei in passing, my notion of him being more background noise from occasional news reports than anything, tensing up at this point in the documentary told me more about myself than him.
This was especially true when he was finally released. While press was present, he refused to be interviewed under the conditions of his parole. Of course, it didn't take him too long to begin to get back on the wire, but still. It was disturbing. I find myself wishing I was a better man instead of one who blogs about what he watches on Netflix. I also have the urge to do something about it... but I know that, come morning, I'll be that streaming video blogger again.
I wonder... in which parallel universe am I a freedom fighter?
Until tomorrow, Potatoes~