Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

  • BY Alison Klayman | IN Arts & Culture
    Premiered February 25, 2013

About the Film

For years, conceptual artist Ai Weiwei has been bringing worldwide attention to China’s authoritarian regime through his artwork and his deft use of social media. And every step of the way, China’s leaders have been trying to figure out how to deal with Ai as he seeks to bring transparency to a traditionally opaque government. MORE

They’ve tried to enforce his silence in every possible way. They track him constantly. They’ve attempted to bribe him. They’ve demolished his huge, newly completed art studio. They’ve beaten him to the point of needing brain surgery. They’ve offered him government positions. They’ve jailed him for 81 days. They’ve shut down his blog. They’ve taken away his passport.

But nothing can keep the burly Ai down, and nothing can muzzle his irreverent dissidence. Ai, one of the world’s most compelling and appealing activists, is well known for his use of mocking humor. But he means serious business.

His strength emanates from deep in his roots. Ai’s father, a famed poet, was first imprisoned by the Nationalists, then later exiled by the Communist Party. Ai had a ringside seat to the humiliation heaped upon his father and the difficulties his family endured because of it.

While Ai’s life under the government’s constant scrutiny has been difficult and sometimes painful, the regime’s actions have only served to help him gain a devoted following around the world.

“Without the cat-and-mouse [game] that the Chinese authorities instigate, Ai wouldn’t have nearly the profile he does,” Alison Klayman, director of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, told

Editors of ArtReview magazine recently named Ai the most powerful artist in the world. His highly varied works of art draw packed crowds wherever they’re displayed. But it’s his way of communicating about them — and about his government — that really keeps his message in the spotlight.

Ai’s life, like his art, is ever evolving. When the government shut down his blog, for instance, he felt discouraged and helpless. “And then some guy said, ‘I opened a miniblog for you,’ ” he told Time magazine. “It was just one sentence — 140 characters. Twitter was like a poem. It was rich, real, and spontaneous. It really fit my style. In a year and a half, I tweeted 60,000 tweets...

“This [technology] really changes the landscape of the political situation. In the past, only the powerful could make their voices heard. Today anybody with clear thinking or a special way of understanding will be recognized.”

The Filmmaker

While living in China from 2006 to 2010, freelance journalist Alison Klayman produced radio and television feature stories for media outlets including PBS's FRONTLINE, NPR's "All Things Considered.” She also began shooting her film on Ai Weiwei, following the artist for three years and gaining unprecedented access to his life and work. The film has been translated into more than 24 languages and has won many awards, including a duPont-Columbia University Award for Excellence in Broadcasting. It was also named one of the top five documentaries of the year by the National Board of Review.


Film Credits

Filmed and Directed by
Alison Klayman

Edited by
Jennifer Fineran

Music by
Ilan Isakov

Contributing Producer
Colin Jones

Alison Klayman
Adam Schlesinger

Executive Producers
Karl Katz
Julie Goldman
Andrew Cohen

Associate Producers
Katie Grube
Matt Ma

Post-Production/Outreach Manager
Win-Sie Tow

For MUSE Film and Television
Cathy Price
Jack Chiueh

Key Advisor
Brian Newman

Digital Strategist
Lou Sagar

Ai Dan 艾丹
Ai Lao 艾老
Ai Weiwei
Lee Ambrozy
Chen Danqing 陈丹青
Ethan Cohen
Feng Boyi 冯博一
Gao Ying 高瑛
Gu Changwei 顾长卫
He Yunchang 何云昌
Hsieh Tehching 谢德庆
Huang Kankan
Hung Huang 洪晃
Li Zhanyang 李占洋
Liu Yanping
Lu Qing 路青
Evan Osnos
RongRong 荣荣
Karen Smith
Philip Tinari
Wang Fen 王分
Inserk Yang
Zhang Hongtu 张宏图
Zuoxiao Zuzhou 左小诅咒

Co-editor / Sound / Subtitles
Alison Klayman

Editorial Services
Gypsy Camp Studios

Editorial Assistant
Lillie Zuck

Editorial Consultant
Jonathan Oppenheim

Additional Cinematography
Colin Jones

Additional Footage
Ai Weiwei
Ai Xiaoming
Sam Beattie
Andrew Cohen
Rebecca Kanthor
Matt Ma
Zhao Zhao

Still Photography
Ted Alcorn

Graphic Design (Beijing)
39 Degrees North

Online Editor
David Gauff

Re-Recording Mixer
Matt Gundy

Jane Tolmachyov

Score Mix by
Carmen Borgia

Ilan Isakov (Guitar, Mandolin, Keyboard)
Philip Parker (Cello)
Jonathan Davenport (Bass)

Post Production Facility
DuArt Film & Video

Post Production Sound
DuArt Sound

Production Assistants - Beijing
Dennis Tung

Post-Production Assistants - New York
Emily Harris
Alexander Hughes
Jessica Kingdon
Rayleigh Lei
Kate Smith
Yi-Hsun Tseng
Cindy Zhang
Binghao Zhao

Outreach Assistant
Erin Chaney

Michelle Lim
Kate Smith
Yi-Hsun Tseng
Xiyun Yang
Xiaozheng Zhu
Lillie Zuck

Distribution Advisory Services
Cinetic Media

Legal Services
Victoria Cook

Additional Archival Research
Kate Coe

Archival Footage & Images Courtesy
Al-Jazeera English
AP Archives
Contact Press Images
Corbis Images
ITN Source
Long Bow Group, Inc.
Magnet Images
Nobel Media AB
New Tang Dynasty Television
Yang Zhichao


(From the album "大事")
Written by: Zuoxiao Zuzhou
Performed by: Zuoxiao Zuzhou
Courtesy of Zuoxiao Zuzhou

Written By: Carsick Cars
Performed by: Carsick Cars
Courtesy of Maybe Mars

Special Thanks
Jocelyn Barnes
Juliet Bingham
Amy and Mark Blumenfeld
Melissa Chan
Karin Chien
Jerome and Joan Cohen
John Cooper
Susan Delson
Chris Dercon
Sandi Dubowski
FAKE Design
Martha Flanders
Galleri Faurschou, Beijing
Rachel Gogel
Gui Nuo
Guo Ke
Lindsay Hamlin
Haus der Kunst, Munich
Herzog & de Meuron, Basel
Sharon Hom
Pamela Horn
Ted and Vanessa Hope
Mami Kataoka
Matthew Klayman
Dr. Anna Kornbrot and Barry Klayman
Lucas Lai
Maggie, Stephanie and David
Albert Maysles
Urs Miele
An Xiao Mina
Mori Museum, Tokyo
Jennifer Ng
Uli Sigg
Nadine Stenke
Tate Modern, London
Taliesin Thomas
Three Shadows, Beijing
Stephanie Tung
Ragna Van Doorn
Sheena Wagstaff
Wen Tao
Kimberly Wexler
E-Shyh Wong
Xu Ye
Chin-Chin Yap
Gao Yuan
Gary Zarr

Dedicated to everyone who is finding a new way
to express themselves and to reach out.

Major funding for this program was provided by
Good Pitch
Hazen-Polsky Foundation
Henry Luce Foundation
Cinereach Project at Sundance Institute
Agnes Gund
Jerome Foundation
Chicken & Egg Pictures
Lisson Gallery
And others; a complete list available from PBS

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry was produced by Never Sorry, LLC
and United Expression Media in association with Muse Film and Television.
This program was produced by Never Sorry, LLC
which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2012 Never Sorry, LLC. All rights reserved.

Ai Weiwei takes tremendous chances with his use of social media and art to call attention to governmental wrongdoings. If you lived in China, would you dare to speak up?


  • 2012 duPont-Columbia Awards
    Award Winner
  • 2012 National Board of Review
    Top 5 Documentaries
  • 2012 Sundance Film Festival
    Special Jury Prize
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Ai Weiwei takes tremendous chances with his use of social media and art to call attention to governmental wrongdoings. If you lived in China, would you dare to speak up?