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China continues to throw legal obstacles at artist-activist Ai Weiwei, to discredit him at home (obscenity and bigamy charges) and abroad (tax evasion). So in July, surprising no one, China rejected Ai’s appeal that the state’s tax authorities had violated his rights in raids that culminated in the $2.4 million case brought against him—as well as his disappearance from the public view for some three months. It is his public re-emergence, on Twitter and in a new documentary, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, that appears to have enraged Chinese authorities, so much so that China has refused to participate in festivals that have screened the feature. From Never Sorry, it is easy to see why both parties are acting the way they are: Filmmaker Alison Klayman follows Ai as he happily, and effortlessly, makes trouble for his autocratic handlers. For example, the film shows footage of a documentary made by Ai in which he walks straight up to a car that has been following to ask its driver if he is looking for him. Ai engages China this way, he says, because he is terrified: “If you don’t act, the dangers become stronger.” One hopes that his first major U.S. retrospective, coming to the Hirshhorn this fall, will help to guarantee that he is never sorry.
The film opens July 27 at E Street Cinema. See our showtimes page for listings.