Opening up my film-by-film look at the documentaries of the upcoming 2012 Sundance Film Festival is the alphabetical first of the US Documentary Competition: AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY, Alison Klayman’s insider portrait of the controversial Chinese artist and activist.
Sundance Program Description:
Ai Weiwei is known for many things—great architecture, subversive in-your-face art, and political activism. He has also called for greater transparency on the part of the Chinese state. Director Alison Klayman chronicles the complexities of Ai’s life for three years, beginning with his rise to public prominence via blog and Twitter after he questioned the deaths of more than 5,000 students in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. The record continues through his widely publicized arrest in Beijing in April of 2011. As Ai prepares various works of art for major international exhibitions, his activism heats up, and his run-ins with China’s authorities become more and more frequent.
In this unprecedented look at Ai and those close to him, Klayman’s camera captures his forthrightness and unequivocal stance. He gives a larger picture of the artist as an individual, a symbol of China’s oppression, and a powerful voice against a country that still denies its citizens many basic freedoms.
Klayman is a 2011 Sundance Documentary Fellow and one of Filmmaker Magazine‘s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” for 2011. She is also a freelance journalist who has spent four years in China, producing stories for numerous outlets including NPR and Current TV. Her time with Ai WeiWei has resulted in previous work: Last Spring, her report, WHO’S AFRAID OF AI WEIWEI, was broadcast on PBS Frontline, while a previous short was included as part of an exhibition of the artist’s work in Beijing and for the Tate Modern. The producing team includes producer Adam Schlesinger (Sundance alums SMASH HIS CAMERA and PAGE ONE), associate producer Andy Cohen (KILLING KASZTNER), and executive producers Julie Goldman (Sundance winner BUCK and fellow 2012 title FINDING NORTH), Karl Katz (HERB & DOROTHY), and Cathy Price (WHO GETS TO CALL IT ART).
Why You Should Watch:
Given her intimate access to Ai, the amount of time she was able to film, and her fluency in Mandarin, Klayman was uniquely positioned to craft this exceptional portrait of a remarkably influential contemporary artist. Over three years, she clearly conveys his outspokenness and efforts to foment change in a repressive society, while simultaneously presenting the audience with the ambitious scope of his artwork. With his arrest making international headlines – he was a runner-up for Time Magazine‘s Person of the Year in 2011 – and interest in his artistic and political work growing, Klayman’s film is especially timely.
The doc’s trailer may be found here. Klayman discusses her doc in her “Meet the Artists” interview for Sundance here and with Indiewire here. Additional information may be found on the doc’s website and Facebook page. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.