| This riveting documentary from Beijing-based journalist and filmmaker Alison Klayman deserves consideration for year-end awards. The title refers to the irreverent avant-garde Chinese artist who gained notoriety for designing the iconic “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium in Beijing.
Weiwei’s strong position as a human rights activist began when he called for a boycott and denounced the pomp and circumstance of the 2008 Olympics as Communist Party propaganda.
His next project was to launch a citizen’s investigation into the deaths of the victims of the 2008 earthquake in the Sichuan Province. Many of the student casualties could be attributed to the shoddy construction of government-financed schools that collapsed in the natural disaster. He made a documentary and stirred up anti-government dissent through his blog on the Internet.
He took a radical step against the government by making public a list of the names and birthdates of 5,212 student victims. The authorities shut down his popular blog and installed surveillance cameras at his home studio. He then turned to Twitter to keep the lines of communication open to his legion of followers.
Weiwei‘s efforts to challenge the Chinese government and change public opinion have come at a cost to his safety and freedom. He suffered massive swelling in his brain requiring surgery from blows to his head from police. He was placed under house arrest and then detained in an undisclosed location for 81 days before being released on bail.
Klayman gained unprecedented access to this very photogenic man with a dynamic personality. She relates his family background that helps explain the motivation behind his provocative works of art and political efforts. The movie also gives us glimpses of his family life and introduces his wife, mother and young son conceived out of wedlock with another woman.
Art Review magazine named him the most powerful artist of 2011. Many of his conceptual and installation works of art, designs and photographs are shown that mirror his brand of liberal thinking and individualism.
The documentary won the Special Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
The movie raises awareness of an artist’s responsibility to protect the freedom of expression. You will gain an appreciation for this enigmatic advocate of freedom, fairness and social justice in a more democratic China.
The 91-minute presentation has a to-be-continued ending as you find yourself wanting to keep tabs on this compelling figure and his ongoing fight to push the boundaries against repression in China.
The dialogue is partially in Mandarin with English subtitles.
It is now playing exclusively for a limited engagement at the Glenwood Arts and the Tivoli in Westport.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"