Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (R)


Movie Info

Rating: * * * 

With: Ai Weiwei, Danging Chen, Ying Gao.

Writer-director: Alison Klayman.

Producers: Alison Klayman, Adam Schlesinger.

A Sundance Selects release. Running time: 91 minutes. In English and Mandarin with English subtitles. Vulgar language. In Miami-Dade: O Cinema, Cosford.

The best artists — the ones whose work endures and matters and changes the world — are often troublemakers who challenge the status quo. Out of their defiance comes art. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, director Alison Klayman’s riveting documentary of the esteemed Chinese sculptor/painter/iconoclast, is practically a handbook on social rebellion. Born in Beijing in 1957 to a Communist poet who was sentenced to almost 20 years of hard labor under Mao’s regime, Ai grew up distrustful of government and authority and intrigued by the transformative power of artistic expression.

Via interviews with Ai, his colleagues and relatives, the movie paints a portrait of a man with natural-born talents that could have made him rich but who opted for something else. Beginning in 2008, when he helped design the enormous “Bird’s Nest” stadium where the Beijing Olympics were held, Ai began paying attention to the displaced lower classes who were hidden from the world’s media. Instead of the Olympics representing freedom, in his eyes they symbolized autocracy.

That same year, an enormous earthquake in Sichuan killed thousands of children in shoddy schoolhouses built by the government. Ai made a documentary about the disaster, and on the one-year anniversary of the event, he used his website to commemorate the names and birthdays of the 5,212 children who perished. When the government pulled the plug on his blog, he took to Twitter.

The recurring theme in Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is of a man on a perpetual hunt for transparency, in his country and abroad. When asked by an interviewer if he fears for his personal safety, Ai responds, “I’m more fearful, and that’s why I act brave. I know the danger is there, and if you don’t act, it becomes stronger.”

That attitude has remained unchanged even as his profile in the international art world has grown along with his reputation as a defiant dissident. Ai’s artwork, which is amply displayed in the film, is often stunning — dizzying sculptures made of wooden stools stacked at impossible angles or bicycles arranged into M.C. Escher-style structures.

But the personality of this amiable and self-deprecating but relentlessly driven man is the film’s most striking aspect. The more noise Ai makes, the greater danger he puts himself in (he has been incarcerated and severely beaten for his work). But the risk and the worldwide attention he has received only fuels his spirit. This fascinating, hugely inspiring movie can only help spread the word.

Read more Reeling with Rene Rodriguez stories from the Miami Herald

 <span class="cutline_leadin">‘Life Itself’:</span> Gene Siskel, left, and Roger Ebert get into one of their countless arguments during the taping of their TV show.

    Life Itself (R)

    There are scholars who blame Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel for dumbing down film criticism with their thumbs-up, thumbs-down approach, the same way they blame Steven Spielberg and George Lucas for ruining movies with the success of Jaws and Star Wars. But Siskel and Ebert accomplished just the opposite: They popularized criticism and introduced it to the masses via their PBS show in which they spent a lot of time debating (and fighting) over movies before delivering their final, yes-or-no verdict. The first version of their show, which was titled Sneak Previews and aired on PBS in the late 1970s, led me to read Pauline Kael and Film Comment and American Film and the Miami Herald’s late, great Bill Cosford as a kid. Suddenly, my nascent love of movies blew up: Movies weren’t just something you watched for entertainment. Sometimes, there was a lot to find beneath their surface.

Caesar (Andy Serkis) leads a war against mankind in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13)

    Yawn of the Planet of the Apes — excuse me, Dawn — has a big-budget sheen, a few terrific action setpieces and some of the most jaw-dropping CGI effects to date: You will believe these apes are real (although some of them are actors wearing costumes).

Chris Evans (center) and Jamie Bell (left) are about to crack some skulls aboard a speeding bullet train in “Snowpiercer.”

    Snowpiercer (R)

    In the near future, mankind attempts to solve the growing problem of global warming by shooting a missile into space that will lower the planet’s thermostat. Instead, the device plunges Earth into another ice age, killing all life except for the people on a huge bullet train that has been circling the globe for 17 years (don’t ask, just go with it).

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category