Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case
A welcome chance to catch up with the quirky artist’s heroic struggle for freedom
Following hard on the heels of Alison Klayman’s Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry comes another feature length documentary about the Chinese artist and political activist, this time by Andreas Johnsen, who made the 2009 documentary Murder about anti-abortion legislation in Nicaragua.
Whether smashing priceless vases, or painting Coca-Cola logos on them, or scavenging the cigarette butts carelessly dropped by government surveillance teams to create art, both of these films reveal Weiwei as a likable figure with a fondness for cats and a perennially concerned mother. He’s also a mischievous force of nature whose work takes on greater meanings when seen in the context of his battles with Chinese authorities, and sketching in that background is what gives both Klayman and Johnsen’s films their compelling quality.
Whereas Never Sorry gained a certain urgency from the growing threat to Weiwei’s safety, The Fake Case picks up the narrative after the artist has been released from an 80 day confinement and finds himself under house arrest. Weiwei seems both physically diminished and sobered by his incarceration, but he remains unbowed as he returns to his cat-strewn compound at his 258 Fake residence deeply angered by the somewhat spurious tax charges he’s been faced with; the title The Fake Case refers to his place of dwelling, but also to the trumped up nature of the charges.
Weiwei is news, and Johnsen’s crew seem to have little to contrive; the artist seems determined to put himself on a collision course with authorities, and is highly adept at using social media to gain support and draw attention to his many and varied skirmishes. While little more than an update on an ongoing dispute, The Fake Case is a welcome chance to catch up with the quirky artist’s heroic struggle for freedom.
Screening at Cineworld, Edinburgh, Tue 24 & Fri 27 Jun, as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014.