Video interview with Oscar Shortlisted doc director Alison Klayman, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Thursday, 6 December, 2012

Alison Never Sorry interview - Youtube thumbnail compositeAi Weiwei carrying an Oscar on Facebook

The insightful, fun, and sometimes deadly serious documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (艾未未:道歉你妹; title in Taiwan 艾未未:草泥馬) has been Oscar shortlisted from 126 films down to 15, coming out ahead of films like “The Central Park Five” by the legendary Ken Burns et al, and “Head Games” by Steve James (director of the amazing Hoop Dreams).

Alison Klayman, director of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, was very nice and cool to do her first post-Oscar-shortlist video interview with me on the day after she came back from a Bangkok film festival trip. Here is my video interview with Alison.

Video interview with Oscar Shortlisted Alison Klayman, director of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry trailer (Official selection Sundance 2012 Film Festival)

I just noticed on the back wall in the following film still, the pictures are the concept drawings that lead to the Remembering (2009), an installation for the Façade of the House of German Art.

Ai Weiwei Never Sorry - Film Still

Golden Ai Weiwei Oscar

Alison and I talked about the middle finger salute in the interview. To me, it is a show of defiance to the powerful, be it the one-party ruled Chinese government or any other governments or powerful institutions.

Weiwei middle-finger art Read the rest of this entry »


Academy narrows best Oscar documentary list from 126 to 15 films

Monday, 3 December, 2012

Ai Weiwei in a big pot

Today The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced 15 out of 126 films will advance to the next stage. Here are the 15 films (in alphabetical order by title) with their production companies (links to the films added):

(**) “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” Never Sorry LLC
(*) “Bully,” The Bully Project LLC
(*) “Chasing Ice,” Exposure
(*) “Detropia,” Loki Films
(*) “Ethel,” Moxie Firecracker Films
(*) “5 Broken Cameras,” Guy DVD Films
(*) “The Gatekeepers,” Les Films du Poisson, Dror Moreh Productions, Cinephil
(*) “The House I Live In,” Charlotte Street Films, LLC
How to Survive a Plague,” How to Survive a Plague LLC
The Imposter,” Imposter Pictures Ltd.
(*) “The Invisible War,” Chain Camera Pictures
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God,” Jigsaw Productions in association with Wider Film Projects and Below the Radar Films
Searching for Sugar Man,” Red Box Films
(*)* “This Is Not a Film,” Wide Management
(*) “The Waiting Room,” Open’hood, Inc.

These 15 films are now qualified for the documentary branch members to further narrow down to five nominees. Regrettably this reporter only has a chance to watch one of the above films Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry and I really enjoyed it. Documentary films are insightful sources to expand our views and sometimes world views. I am hope in the coming months to have chances to watch some of the above films, especially the ones I’ve put a “*” in front of.

Rory Kennedy’s (director of “Ethel”) reaction (via Variety) are I guess typical,

“I was just on an airplane — I just got off and got a call and I was very excited,” Kennedy told Variety. “It’s just an honor anytime to get shortlisted by the Academy — it’s a huge honor. Obviously, there are so many extraordinary documentaries out there.” 

This year’s rules changes in the selection process apparently lead to some controversy, Read the rest of this entry »


Will Twitter’s 500 Millionth User be a Chinese gov spam bot? Thanks to Ai Weiwei @aiww @AWWNeverSorry

Wednesday, 22 February, 2012

According to some projection, Twitter will have its 500 millionth user today (Wed Feb 22, 2012 at about 3pm EST). I seriously wonder if  that “user” will be a Chinese political spam bot?

You see, I sometimes tweet about the Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei @aiww or talk about the documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry  @AWWNeverSorry. In the last 4 days alone, there were 15 brand new Chinese gov spam bots spamming me! The Chinese government wants to give the impression that lots of different people support its views.

Based on my experiences, the Chinese government and its agents have created many many Twitter spam bots, each only send out only about 120 or so personal @ message tweets to different people at the same time and then simply discard these accounts and left them unused! Try tweeting about Ai Weiwei @aiww  and be spammed by the famous Chinese government spam bot yourself!

So thanks to brave opposition voices from people like Ai Weiwei, will the Chinese government and other spam bots creators be creating Twitter’s Six Millionth or even One Billionth user?

Note: I am not sure if these bots are fully automated or partially run by hired Chinese, also known as the 50 Cent Army/Party (in simplified Chinese: 五毛党; traditional Chinese: 五毛黨).

Also, I want to be clear that Weiwei is NOT the only target of these spam bots, I got spammed by them because I tweeted about Weiwei. Other people got spammed for tweeting about other people the Chinese government happen to disagree with.

Here are six of the 15 Chinese gov spam bot accounts (all different) that spammed me in the last 4 days! Click pix to zoom it. The first image is the collection of many of the spam messages on one page.

Chinese gov spam bot - against Ai Weiwei @aiww - pix 07

Chinese gov spam bot - against Ai Weiwei @aiww - pix 01Chinese gov spam bot - against Ai Weiwei @aiww - pix 02 Read the rest of this entry »


Middle Fingers Salute to the Absentee Ai Weiwei at Sundance 2012

Sunday, 29 January, 2012

Pictures of Middle Fingers Salute to the Absentee Ai Weiwei as Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry won U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Defiance at Sundance 2012. RT@aiww:指天骂地 RT @denghaoyang:中指森林。@aiww RT @AWWNeverSorry:昨夜 圣丹斯颁奖给@aliklay @AWWNeverSorry @aiww现场,表彰他们’道歉你妹’的反抗精神

For the record, two film reviews from industry respected sources. Excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter review (emphasis added),

“The filming is much of the point: Like Warhol 2.0, Ai documents his surroundings obsessively and views Twitter as a necessity. Through a constant online presence, he has become “Teacher Ai” to a legion of followers, and some of his most important art/politics hybrid projects — like one intent on uncovering facts about the Sichuan earthquake that the government wants buried — rely on their participation. As we spend time with him in his studios and home, Ai seems authentically driven by a need for more freedom than China is currently offering.”

Excerpt from Variety review (emphasis added),

“Rather than dwelling too heavily on his museum shows, much of the film expands upon Ai’s key tweets of the past few years. Hence, the incidents that take precedence include the wrenchingly unjust demolition of his Shanghai artist’s studio and his confrontational attempts to seek justice for a police raid that left him with a bleeding head wound — both major events for Klayman to have caught oncamera.

Among Ai’s better-known work is a series of photographs that feature his extended middle finger superimposed over Tiananmen Square and other iconic sites. Whereas many contemporary artists question authority via their work, Ai does not confine his criticism of hegemony to galleries and museums. Instead, he takes the assault directly to the powers that be, which in turn expands the scope of his work to a form of pseudo-performance art, providing Klayman with a handful of lively “happenings” to include in her film, such as Ai’s heated confrontation with the officer who allegedly beat him.

Though the docu provides occasional insights into Ai’s personality, China serves as the more interesting character here, a complex adversary capable of inspiring a range of creative reactions from the artist. By opening with a metaphor about exceptional cat that has learned to open doors, Klayman stresses the one-in-a-billion odds of someone like Ai existing. The film is a good start, but such an important artist deserves a more rigorous portrait.”

As I tweeted, I am very much looking forward to watch Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. Alison has captured some very important moments and stories in Ai Weiwei‘s life and it is about time more of us get to know him.

Jan 30, 2012 update: LA Times, “Ai Weiwei documentary gets middle-finger salute at Sundance


Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry – Press from Sundance and other film festivals

Monday, 23 January, 2012

* LA Times (great review), “Sundance 2012: Ai Weiwei screening becomes a political event

“In one of the film’s numerous scenes of defiance, Ai describes his motivation for his art and his statements. “If you don’t publicize it, it’s like it never happened,” he said.”

*  Chicago Tribune, “Another side of Ai Weiwei shown in Sundance film

* New York Times, Alison Klayman (with video), “Ai Weiwei: The Evolution of a Dissident

* Reuters, “Another side of Ai Weiwei shown in Sundance film

* WSJ, “Ten Hot Sundance Documentaries to Watch

* Salt Lake Tribune, “Sundance review: “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Jan 29, 2012 update: THR, “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry: Sundance Film Review

Variety review, “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Wired.com, “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry Documents Artist’s Social Media Dissent

Feb 14, 2012 update: The Guardian, “Berlin 2012: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry – review

***

Here is an Ai Weiwei quote I love,

“Q: Do you ever examine  yourself to say, why is that you are so fearless compared to other people?
Ai WeiWei Answer: I was so fearful, that’s not fearless. I am more fearful than other people, may be, then I act more brave because I know the danger is really there. If you don’t act, the dangers become stronger.” – Ai WeiWeiin PBS Frontline video “Who is afraid of Ai Weiwei?” (time code: ~17:25)


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