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Ai Weiwei lets the camera follow him everywhere in revealing documentary about art and activism

AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY (Alison Klayman, 2011)
IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave. at Third St., 212-924-7771
Lincoln Plaza Cinema, 1886 Broadway at 63rd St., 212-757-2280
Opens Friday, July 27

“I consider myself more of a chess player,” Ai Weiwei says at the beginning of Never Sorry, Alison Klayman’s revealing documentary about the larger-than-life Chinese artist and dissident. “My opponent makes a move, I make a move. Now I’m waiting for my opponent to make the next move.” Over the last several years, Ai has become perhaps the most famous and controversial artist in the world, primarily since he participated in the design of Beijing National Stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest, for the 2008 Summer Olympics, then denounced the Games on political grounds. Ai gives director, producer, and cinematographer Klayman, making her first full-length film, remarkable access to his personal and professional life as he gets physically abused by Chinese police, prepares to open major exhibits in Munich and London, and visits with his young son, Ai Lao, the result of a tryst with Wang Fen, an editor on his underground films. Klayman speaks with Ai Weiwei’s devoted wife, Lu Qing, an artist who publicly fought for his freedom when he disappeared in 2011; his mother, Gao Ying, who spent time in a labor camp with her dissident-poet husband, the late Ai Quing; and such fellow Chinese artists and critics as Chen Danqing, Feng Boyi, Hsieh Tehching, and Gu Changwei, who speak admiringly of Ai’s dedication to his art and his fearless search for the truth. A round man with a long, graying bear, Ai is a fascinating, complicated character, a gentle bull who openly criticizes his country because he loves it so much. He is a social media giant, making documentaries that are available for free on the internet and revolutionizing the way Twitter and the blogosphere are used. Ai risks his own freedom by demanding freedom for all, calling for government transparency before and after he is secretly arrested, not afraid of the potential repercussions. And he is also a proud cat lover — more than forty felines regularly roam around his studio — eagerly showing off one talented kitty that has a unique way of opening a door. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry shows Ai to be an honorable, supremely principled human being who has deep respect for the history of China and a fierce determination to improve its future, no matter the personal cost. Klayman will be on hand at the IFC Center for half a dozen screenings opening weekend, July 27-29, to talk about the film and her extraordinary subject. (To find out more about Ai Weiwei’s art, specifically his recent projects in New York City, please follow these links: “Sunflower Seeds,” “Circle of Animals: Zodiac Heads,” “Ai Weiwei: New York Photographs 1983-1993,” and “1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei.”

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