At last night's New York premiere of the Sundance-award winning documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, director Alison Klayman proposed a call to action. Gracious, humble, and beaming with excitement, the first-time director emphasized the importance of sharing the story of Chinese artist and political activist, Ai Weiwei, who has intermittently been censored, silenced and detained by his own government.
Klayman, who was just 24 when she began documenting the artist in 2008, didn't start the project with any defined objectives. "The film definitely exceeded any expectations. I think I don't even know what to expect tonight. I just think it's a great opportunity to get Ai Weiwei's story out in a real, big way," Klayman said.
Presented by The Peggy Siegel Company and held at Chelsea Clearview Cinemas, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is a stunning, intimate portrait of art, activism, and dissent in the digital era, following Weiwei's continually evolving artistic practice, and his struggle for transparency and liberty under the Chinese regime.
Among the many supporters out to wish Klayman well were Olivier Theyskens, Todd & Megan DiCiurcio, Alistair Banks Griffin, Aleksa Palladino, Lindsey Wixson, Aaron Stern, Savannah Wise, curator Anastasia Rogers, and artists Brian Farrell, Peter Tunney, and Dustin Yellin. Other guests, such as Goldie Hawn, eschewed the red carpet and discreetly slipped into the theater. Guests playfully gave the middle finger to the camera, homage not only to Ai Weiwei's A Study in Perspective series, but also to his provocative, tongue-in-cheek attitude.
Also in attendance was Susan Sarandon, who participated in the Art & Cinema for Peace Gala, held in Ai's honor, at Art Basel this past June. "I'm always interested when there's some attempt to silence any kind of artist. I first was interested in him because he's really imaginative. An artist is supposed to give you a new framing, whether it's film, painting, performance art, or whatever, and I think he does that constantly," Sarandon said.
Notably absent from the proceedings, but present in spirit, was Ai Weiwei himself, who is currently on probation from house arrest in Beijing. "We were on the phone about two weeks ago and more than liking the film, he likes the act of the film. It really excited him. I think he'd want to be having a discussion," Klayman said. "I think the fact that it's in New York, that would probably be a crazy experience for him. I don't think he's had a show this big in New York. This was his home for ten years, so the idea that there's this movie premiering about him here, I'm sure it would be an overwhelming experience."
The celebrations continued at West Village lounge The Double Seven, where guests sipped on cocktails well into the evening. —Colleen Kelsey