Ai Weiwei might be the most famous living artist today. Surely he’s a controversial figure, at least from the eyes of China and while he produces work from museum exhibitions around the world, he’s continuously persecuted. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry captures the history of Ai Weiwei, from his days in New York City, to his rise as a media and art star. The film captures both sides of him. His work, which also melds into his Tweeting and documenting his own persecution. Director Alison Klayman captures numerous great moments, from the opening shots of Ai Weiwei’s cats to his detention and release.
GR: It’s obvious Ai Weiwei wants to be on camera. I’m sure many wanted to make a documentary. I’m wondering how did you get to the top of the list?
AK: Well, I really lucked out because I was already living in China for a couple of years so by the time that I first met him I was based in Beijing, I was able to speak and work in Mandarin. And my roommate was curating an exhibition of his photographs for a local gallery. She asked if I wanted to make a video for the exhibition so that was how I met him. I was sort of handed not only the introduction, but sort of the responsibility of filming him and so there was never any kind of approach, really. It was essentially something that I came to very organically and I luckily I pursued it and he let me be around. And he liked the video I made for the exhibition so things kind of progressed from there.
GR: There have been other documentaries of some sort. Were those done concurrently while you began filming. I think you started filming 4 years ago?
AK: Yeah, I started filming at the end of 2008. There was a BBC Imagine, sort of an hour long piece that was really about him but it was about his Tate Modern exhibition. They sort of came around the end of summer of 2010 and was on air by November. They kind of came through. There was also a half hour show. There was also something done for German art television. But again, I think the nature of my project was so different from something like that. They’re all good, there’s a lot of movies that can be made about Ai Weiwei but I think mine is — my sort of thought as really a longitudinal project. I just wanted to be around to see what happened, I didn’t have an outline when I began and I really wanted to get it as personal as I could to really see what he’s like.