By Maya Eva Gunst Rudolph
Alison Klayman (alisonklayman.com)
Alison Klayman is a journalist who, while living in China from 2006-2010, produced radio and television for news sources such as NPR’s “All Things Considered,” AP Television, Voice of America, Current TV, and CBC. She is the director of the documentary film Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, which won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Defiance at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. I spoke with Alison at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah about the film’s trajectory, the role of social media in making bringing this story to life, and her working relationship with China’s most notorious artist and filmmaker. Thanks to Alison and her team for their cooperation.
dGenerate Films: Can you talk a little about the origins of your working relationship with Ai Weiwei and how the project got started?
Alison Klayman: I had been living in Beijing for about two years when my roommate, Stephanie Tung, who was working at Three Shadows [Photography Center, a gallery and cultural center in Caochangdi, Beijing] got me involved in an exhibition they were doing of Ai Weiwei’s photos from New York. The photos are kind of a”greatest hits” series of contemporary cultural figures in China and provided an interesting window into this cross-cultural understanding of New York that I was really drawn to. I was kind of underemployed at the time and Stephanie suggested I make a video to accompany the exhibition. Rong Rong [photographer and Three Shadows director] gave me the okay and I went from Three Shadows to Weiwei’s house with the camera already rolling. It was really natural and organic. I didn’t just show up at Weiwei’s door and say “I’m fascinated by you, I want to film you.” We finished the video and Weiwei liked. I think it showed who he really is – very charismatic and engaging, fun-loving, doesn’t take himself too seriously. And then projects just kept coming up, so I feel compelled to keep filming. That’s kind of the beauty of Beijing – it’s very open and you can easily fall into these kinds of projects unexpectedly.