Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case
“And what about China, what do you think is going to happen?”
“One day it will completely collapse. I’m trying to figure out which day. It’s very hard to figure out…”
Ai Weiwei looks directly into the camera with a look on his face that can best be described as a smirk, but one with overtones of despair. A household name in China, art circles and, in the past few years, political activists, Weiwei is a controversial figure in his homeland of China. Famed artist and founder of the company Fake LTD, Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case documents the 81 days Weiwei was under house arrest, as ordered by the Chinese government. After serving a long stint in a prison cell where he was constantly under surveillance (with two soldiers watching him, one of them literally standing by his bedside), Weiwei is released from prison. The cause? Well, that’s debatable.
Proving to be an influential figure through his presence on the internet, Weiwei is a proponent for the Jasmine Revolution in China. Detained by authorities for “subversion of state power,” he is later brought to court for other charges, all centering around his art company. Words like “decency” and “pornography” are thrown around as adjectives for his art. His absence on the internet led many people to speculate his whereabouts and charges and thus helped to spur his international political status. We see him discuss his situation with fellow artists, and this is where the film’s opening quote begins to be dissected. “Painting is not done to decorate apartments, it is an instrument of war.” Pablo Picasso was quoted as saying this, and Weiwei beings realizing that perhaps this is true. Is he a political artist? Or is he an artist who’s political? Is there even a line between the two?
Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case sheds light on the aftermath of his arrest and subsequent release, an event that the media popularized but then moved on from. It serves as a much needed follow-up since during this period he was not allowed to give interviews to the press. Even after the 81 days of house arrest he is still left without a passport and is now a prisoner inside his own country. This documentary makes it clear that this man’s fight for freedom is far from over.
Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case opens in Toronto on May 16, 2014 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.