Another side of Ai Weiwei shown in Sundance film

Sun Jan 22, 2012 9:52pm EST
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By Christine Kearney

PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - A new documentary film offers a glimpse into the life of Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei, conveying a creative, brave, yet humble man who has become more cautious following his 81-day government detention in 2011.

"Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry," which premiered at the Sundance film festival on Sunday, features interviews China's leading artists and activists and people who surround Ai in is life.

It includes footage that humanizes the man, showing suprising tears from his mother worried about his safety, the artist playing with his young son, and highlights from his projects such as a poor response to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Ai, who was named the world's most powerful artist by U.K-based ArtReview magazine in October since his release, appears in interviews only before his detention, but not after his release.

The 54-year-old bearded, burly Chinese artist wanted to attend the Sundance screening "but felt it was just going to invite too much trouble," the film's director Alison Klayman told the audience after a standing ovation in Park City, Utah, where the festival takes place.

Ai became a symbol for China's crackdown on artists and dissidents when his disappearance and secret detention after battling Chinese authorities sparked an international outcry.

Last November he paid a bond of 8.4 million yuan (then $1.3 million) on a tax evasion charge, which he denies, while his supporters continued to raise the full, combined bill of 15 million yuan (then $2.4 million.)

Klayman spent several years chronicling his rise to prominence and told the audience she believed the detention of the artist, which became a rallying point for China's free speech and other movements, had changed him.   Continued...

<p>Director Alison Klayman talks to the media before the screening of the film "Ai Weiwei - Never Sorry" during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 22, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart</p>