Never Retreat: Retweet - Isla Badenoch
By Hussain Currimbhoy 16 June, 2012
After the news that the Chinese had withdrawn their delegates from this years Doc/Fest, there was an instant atmosphere of anticipation and excitement to see Alison Klayman’s film, AI WEI WEI: NEVER SORRY. Ai Wei Wei describes himself as ‘a chess-player - my opponent makes a move, I make a move. Now I’m waiting for my opponent to make the next move.’ The move of the commissioning editors to not attend was an action that has instantly brought this film more media attention, meaning Ai Wei Wei does not need to make his next play as this has come about through this refusal to attend and to the delegates’ detriment.
The film itself was intimately shot, showing a history of the private figure behind the highly public and political artist. In a skype Q&A following the film, Alison Klayman described her want to show Ai as an extremely proud father in the revelation of him having a son with a former lover. This appeared subtly in the film as engaging moments with his young son show him as a caring and loving individual. It gave an insight into his own childhood and the abuse he witnessed his father suffer, showing why he is so determined not to give up on his cause for transparency, liberty and the freedom to be an individual in his homeland.
Ai Wei Wei appeared as a humorous hooligan, taking on the repressive abuse of the police in giving them a taste of their own medicine, filming them filming us filming them. Laughter ran throughout the film, starting with shots capturing his many cats running about the place, destroying his work, learning to open doors but rudely not shutting them behind them. Yet below this sense of humour in his controversial opinions and artwork such as 'Fuck you Motherland,' you always felt a looming tension in the background wondering how the Chinese state would react to his volatile and transgressive acts.
You felt your heart sink when finding out about his supposed 'disappearance' and withdrawal from social media, an area he proliferates to allow freedom of expression. The showing of this film shows the appreciation of Doc/Fest to support the editorial independence of filmmakers and their work. I have a profound sense of gratitude that I was able to see this film when those from Ai Wei Wei’s country are unable to do so. The danger he puts himself in for the freedom of others defines this artist as an inspirational figure. I urge people to see this engaging and revealing film, and to help retweet rather than retreat from Ai Wei Wei’s cause.
[Isla Badenoch is sitting on this year's Youth Jury.]