Coming to theatres this Friday, May 16: AI WEIWEI: THE FAKE CASE
Andreas Johnsen’s look at the celebrated Chinese artist/activist’s life under house arrest had its world premiere at IDFA last year. It went on to screen at Hot Docs, One World, Istanbul, Tempo, Tampere, and DocsBarcelona, among others.
Johnsen’s film picks up, essentially, where Alison Klayman’s 2012 AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY left off. Having been detained for 81 days, the artist is placed under house arrest, monitored constantly, and subjected to ever-present harassment by authorities – not to mention the interest of the worldwide media. Already on edge, Ai comes under catastrophic legal trouble – served with a lawsuit by the government that threatens his reputation and his finances. While Johnsen unquestioningly has fantastic access to his subject, his treatment remains frustratingly surface and episodic, seemingly content to merely chronicle the artist’s quotidian existence, rather than offering a clear, purposeful trajectory. While Ai generally engenders fascination, given his headline making resistance to government suppression, there’s nothing particularly new here, making this more of a curiosity piece than a full-fledged portrait.