Ai Weiwei: Behind the Scenes Twitter Chat with Alison Klayman

Alison Klayman, the director of upcoming Independent Lens documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, will be participating in a Twitter chat on Monday, February 25, 2013, at 11am PST/ 2pm EST. She will be taking questions and providing insight into one of the most celebrated (and controversial) artists/activists of our time, Ai Weiwei.

ai-weiweiAi Weiwei is arguably the most internationally celebrated Chinese artist of the modern era. The inscrutable bearded visionary burst onto the scene with vast conceptual installations, such as his eight million hand-painted ceramic sunflower seeds inside Tate Modern, and went on to design the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium for the Beijing Olympics. But at heart, Ai Weiwei is a troublemaker with a serious agenda: to challenge the oppression of the Chinese people by their government with rebellious and irreverent gestures. His activism has cost him his freedom repeatedly, but he never seems to lose his childlike approach to serious dissidence executed with a wink.

As the director and producer of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Klayman started filming in 2008 hoping to use the film as a way to help people around the world learn something new about China through the eyes of Ai Weiwei. During her time filming, she spent countless hours with the charismatic and fascinating artist, learning the motivations behind both his art and activism.

Ask Alison a question either before or during the chat by posting to Twitter with the hashtag #AWWchat.  Continue reading

Alison Klayman on Filming Ai Weiwei

Independent Lens sat down with filmmaker Alison Klayman to talk about the joys and challenges of filming China’s most famous artist and dissident, Ai Weiwei. Her film, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, premieres on Independent Lens February 25 at 10 PM (check local listings).

Ai Weiwei is arguably the most internationally celebrated Chinese artist of the modern era. At heart, he is a troublemaker with a serious agenda: to challenge the oppression of the Chinese people by their government with rebellious and irreverent gestures. His activism has cost him his freedom repeatedly, but he never seems to lose his childlike approach to serious dissidence executed with a wink. But what was it like to film such a celebrated and controversial figure? Filmmaker Alison Klayman gives us insider access to the one and only Ai Weiwei.

Closeup of filmmaker Alison Klayman with Ai Weiwei

Filmmaker Alison Klayman with Ai Weiwei

What impact do you hope this film will have?

I believe there are several layers of impact to the film. The first is that people get to know Ai Weiwei as a person, going behind the headlines and the iconography. As a documentary film, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is able to provide a much more intimate understanding of Ai Weiwei’s character and motivations than a short news story can, and it hopefully means that audiences will follow his case as it continues to develop.

By watching the film people also get a window into many aspects of contemporary China they might not have seen before. I hope it shows China as a complex place, with lots of diversity of opinion and a rich community of artists, activists and young people who care about improving their country.

Most importantly, though, are the universal lessons contained in the film. It’s really a story about individual courage, about how creativity and finding your voice can lead to change, how social media is transforming our world, how rule of law and transparency and freedom of expression are important in any society.

What led you to make this film?

When I graduated from Brown University in 2006 I wanted to travel abroad to have adventures, learn new languages, and try to start a career as a journalist and documentary filmmaker. I started my journey by going on a five-month trip to China with a college classmate, and I unexpectedly ended up staying there for four years.

It wasn’t until 2008 that I first met Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. My first few weeks of filming were enough to convince me that he was a charismatic and fascinating character, and that I wanted to dig deeper into his story. I wanted to know more about who Ai Weiwei really was, what motivates his art and activism, and what would happen to him. I also thought that people around the world would learn something new about China by being introduced to him. Continue reading

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry Scores a duPont Award

Fourteen winners of the Alfred I. duPont- Columbia Awards were announced Wednesday morning by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, by filmmaker Alison Klayman, will premiere on Independent Lens in February 2013.

The documentary is an intimate and compelling portrayal of an extraordinary artist on the cusp of history in China. Ai Weiwei is arguably the most internationally celebrated Chinese artist of the modern era. At heart, he is a troublemaker with a serious agenda: to challenge the oppression of the Chinese people by their government with rebellious and irreverent gestures. His activism has cost him his freedom repeatedly, but he never seems to lose his childlike approach to serious dissidence executed with a wink.

In Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, filmmaker Alison Klayman presents an insightful look at China and its transition in a digital age.

Find the complete list of winners here and watch the trailer for Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry after the jump. Continue reading

Celebrate Human Rights Day with Five ITVS Films

By Rebecca Huval

Which holidays are you celebrating this December: Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve? Add another to the list because today is Human Rights Day. On December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the UN now honors it annually. This year’s theme is the right to speak up in public life and politics.

Still from The Day My God Died

Celebrate Human Rights Day by catching up on these excellent ITVS-funded documentaries about human rights: Continue reading

The Academy Award Shortlist Has Been Announced and ITVS Couldn’t Be Happier!

What a week for ITVS! First the Sundance Film Festival announced the lineup for 2013, then Time Magazine showed Invisible War some love in their “Top Movies of 2012”, the National Board of Review listed three ITVS funded films in their “Top 5 Documentaries”, and now the Academy Award shortlist is out!

Before anyone walks down any red carpets or starts penning acceptance speeches, the Academy names a number of films (15 to be exact!) to advance in order to help narrow down the voting process for Best Documentary Feature. With over 126 films in contention for the Oscar, ITVS is more than a little excited to see some very familiar titles on the Academy Award shortlist:

The field will be narrowed to five titles when the Oscar nominations are announced in early January.

Independent Lens Announces Fall 2012 Season

The Independent Lens fall lineup includes a special presentation of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Love Free or DieAs Goes Janesville, and Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream.

The 11th season of Independent Lens kicks off with Macky Alston’s documentary Love Free or Die.

With a new home on Monday nights, Independent Lens is ready to kick off its 11th season with a slate of award-winning documentaries that focus on various issues in America. Independent Lens senior series producer Lois Vossen told Real Screen: “All of the films are meant to really be conversations where people talk about the big issues: the war on drugs, rape in the U.S. military, the U.S. economy, the demise of the middle class, gay marriage. All topics that have people sort of polarized – and our goal is to try and bridge that divide… More than anything I would say that’s what ties this to an election year – this idea of what’s happening in contemporary America.”

Before the fall season officially launches, Independent Lens will present the primetime special Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, based on the bestselling book by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn. Continue reading

The ITVS Indies Roundup

A curated list of indie news and recommendations from ITVS’s Rebecca Huval.

Hey, internet dunces: You, too, could create a multimedia package for your film! Knight News Challenge winner the Tiziano Project pulls from existing technology on the web to help storytellers with amateur web skills polish their online videos.

“Get comfortable with the idea that you won’t know what’s good until it’s already happened,” said Radiolab founder Jad Abumrad. The storytelling genius (no, really, he just won a MacArthur Genius Grant) shared the origins of Radiolab with the Transom. (via @brainpicker)

Follow one of the oldest film festivals in Europe, the Locarno Film Festival, Aug. 1-11, through the eyes of some of its critics-in-training. A new Critic Academy sharpens the chops of aspiring film reviewers. Continue reading