August 1, 2012
Filmmaker forges intimate portrait of artist-activist Ai Weiwei
In 2010, Alison Klayman sat in a car in Chengdu, China, with her camera rolling as the internationally renowned conceptual artist and dissident Ai Weiwei scuffled with police, who were pushing and pulling at him and his entourage. The melee had erupted as Ai was attempting to file a lawsuit against the policeman who had beaten him so severely a year earlier that he had suffered a life-threatening cranial hemorrhage, requiring surgery to remove the blood from his brain.
“The moment when my camera fuzzed out is because one of the plainclothes officers came over to the car and grabbed my camera,” said Klayman, 27, whose award-winning documentary “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” opens in Los Angeles on Aug. 3. “My goal was to keep my footage and not have him look at it and turn me in.” So Klayman was prepared. As the officer approached, she deftly switched out her tape with a blank one, which the official promptly confiscated. She had become adept at this kind of bait and switch after authorities had previously confronted her in the process of making her film about China’s most famous artist-activist. Ai is probably best known for creating the Beijing Nation Stadium, also known as the “Bird’s Nest,” for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but his sculpture also has been in museums throughout the world, including a recent installation on the courtyard at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
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