more about director alison Klayman


New York Times chief film critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis named Alison one of their 20 Directors to Watch on a list of rising international filmmaking talents under 40. Her debut feature documentary, AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY, was shortlisted for an Academy Award, nominated for two Emmys, and earned Alison a Director's Guild of America nomination. It premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival where it won a Special Jury Prize, and was picked up by IFC Films. NEVER SORRY has now been translated into over 26 languages and released theatrically around the world. It was also one of the highest grossing films of 2012 directed by a woman.

Although Alison can trace her directing roots back to elementary school, when she would mount Mother's Day plays with her brother Matthew and the Berger sisters, the story of how she came to make her first feature really began in the fall of 2006 when, fresh out of college, Alison went to China on a trip meant to last five months. She hoped to find adventure, learn a new language and uncover storytelling opportunities to hone her skills as a radio journalist and documentary filmmaker.

After those first few months in China, she canceled her ticket home, and moved to Beijing. There she answered a slew of online job ads and worked as: an English coach on the set of a Jackie Chan/Jet Li film; a bartender in a members-only wine club; a writer covering basketball for the official 2008 Olympic website; a voiceover artist for a cartoon pilot; and a special effects assistant making silicone dummies.

By 2008, she became an accredited journalist and went on to produce radio and television feature stories for PBS Frontline, NPR's "All Things Considered" and other media outlets. She also began shooting NEVER SORRY, following Ai Weiwei for three years and gaining unprecedented access to his life and work. 

Alison has made many media appearances to speak about her documentary work, including on The Colbert Report. She is a frequent contributor to the New York Times’ Emmy-nominated Op-Doc Series, and a grant recipient of the Ford Foundation, Sundance Institute, Henry Luce Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Chicken and Egg Pictures and Britdoc. She was a Sundance Creative Producing Fellow and one of Filmmaker Magazine's "25 New Faces of Independent Film," as well as a selected participant in both IFP's Emerging Storytellers program and at Berlinale Talents. She is a regular guest speaker at major art museums and universities around the world. She graduated from Brown University in 2006 with an honors B.A. in History.

Where is Alison now?  

That's always a good question. Alison is based in New York and Tokyo. 

For fun, watch Alison on The Colbert Report :

Select Awards and Honors:


Filmmaker Magazine "25 New Faces of Independent Film"
Sundance Creative Producing Lab


Sundance Film Festival - Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Defiance
Nantucket Film Festival - Best Storytelling in a Documentary
Alliance of Women Film Journalists EDA Award - Outstanding Achievement By A Woman In The Film Industry National Board of Review - Top Five Documentaries of 2012
ARTINFO 30 Under 30
Elle Magazine "Fresh Makers" - Art world power players under 35
Forward 50 - Annual list of influential American Jews
New York Times Critics' Pick
Top Ten Films of the Year, New York Magazine


Directors Guild of America - Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary (nominated)
Alfred I. Dupont-Columbia University Award
Cinema Eye Honors - Best Production, Best Debut Feature (nominated)
Academy Awards - Shortlisted for Best Documentary feature (2013)
20 Directors to Watch - New York Times
7 People Under 30 Changing Our World - Fast Company


News & Documentary Emmy Awards - Outstanding Arts and Culture Programming; Editing (2 nominations)
RBC's Emerging Storytellers - New Voices! Reading Series - IFP Independent Film Week
Berlinale Talents Program


Grand Prize for Best Documentary Short - Heartland Film Festival
Winner, International Short Film Competition - Austin Polish Film Festival


Best Documentary Short - Ashland Independent Film Festival
Best Documentary Short - RiverRun International Film Festival (Academy-Qualifying)
Best Documentary Short - Ozark Foothills FilmFest