by Jim Ridley
For everyone who missed yesterday's screenings of the documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, The Belcourt is offering a few more chances to see it at 4 p.m. today and 9:20 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 24. From the theater's website:
In recent years, Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has garnered international attention as much for his ambitious artwork as his political provocations. From 2008 to 2010, Beijing-based journalist and filmmaker Alison Klayman documented Ai's artistic process in preparation for major museum exhibitions, his intimate exchanges with family members and his increasingly public clashes with the Chinese government. Klayman's detailed portrait of the artist provides a nuanced exploration of contemporary China and one of its most compelling public figures.
It's well worth checking out Dan Lybarger's interview with director Klayman at the Scene's sister publication, Kansas City's The Pitch. From Lybarger's intro, which sets up more of the documentary's focus and gives some vital backstory:
With his pudgy frame and eccentric manner, Ai Weiwei is hard to see as a threat — but that's how the Chinese government has labeled him. The 55-year-old Beijing artist is best known in this country for helping design the "bird's nest" stadium that housed the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and he co-designed a reflecting pool for this summer's London games.
When Ai put together a blog and a series of underground documentaries that criticized his government's handling of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, he started a long, dangerous tug of war. Ai declared that the "tofu construction" of the region's schools contributed to the deaths of thousands of children, and that little had been done to help their grieving families. His criticisms led to the authorities beating him, and detaining him for 81 days in 2011.