Ai Weiwei Documentary Makes Oscar Shortlist

First-time director Alison Klayman’s documentary about artist Ai Weiwei is one step closer to an Oscar nomination. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, which debuted this year at Sundance (where it was awarded a special jury prize) before moving on to festivals from Rio to Reykjavik and a summer U.S. theatrical release, has made the shortlist of 15 films eligible for the Oscar for best documentary. Announced last week by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the list also includes Detropia, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s musing on the Motor City; Rory Kennedy‘s extraordinary chronicle of the life of her mother, Ethel; and Chasing Ice, the story of photographer James Balog’s quest to gather undeniable evidence of climate change. The final list of five films will be announced along with the rest of the Oscar nominations on January 10.

Klayman was granted unprecedented access to Ai Weiwei, as well as his family and others close to him. During the eventful three years of filming, the Chinese government shut down his blog, beat him up, bulldozed his newly built studio, and held him in secret detention. “I want to give people a chance to spend time with Weiwei, listen to his voice and his opinions, see his flaws, and experience the conditions of his life,” says Klayman in her director’s statement. “The idea is to allow audiences to evaluate Weiwei’s choices and, I hope, to be inspired by his courage and humanity.” Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is playing this evening at the Museum of Modern Art. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Klayman. Not in New York? The film is available on DVD and iTunes.

Watch Jonathan Landreth’s recent interview with Klayman for ChinaFile, a blog from the Asia Society Center on U.S.-China Relations: