Ai Weiwei The Fake Case

Date: 
Saturday, April 26, 2014
Location: 
Toronto, Canada - various locations

Ai Weiwei The Fake Case is a documentary about the Chinese artist and activist directed by Andreas Johnsen. An International Film Circuit and Kinosmith release of a Rosforth and Danish Documentary production, it will have its North American premiere at the 2014 Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto this month. Hot Docs will be holding three screenings of the film in Toronto (see showtimes below), and it will premiere in the U.S. in May, 2014. You can see the trailer for the film here:

"Ai Weiwei The Fake Case" - TRAILER - English subtitles from Rosforth on Vimeo.

Beginning on the heels of Ai’s 2011 arrest and 81 days spent in solitary confinement, The Fake Case essentially “picks up where Alison Klayman’s Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry left off.” During his detention, the artist was told he was being investigated on charges of “inciting subversion of state power.” Yet, when he was finally released to house arrest, the Chinese government formally charged him with “economic crimes,” rejecting any link between Ai’s persecution and his political activism. Such charges are routinely used as a catchall term by Chinese authorities to imprison their fiercest critics.

The actual “fake case,” from which the documentary draws its name, refers to the massive lawsuit launched by the Chinese government against Ai Weiwei following his release from prison. Charging the artist with tax evasion, they demanded that he pay $2 million in back taxes and fines on his design firm Fake Cultural Development Ltd. The lawsuit was widely considered to be a means of silencing Ai and preventing him from any further activism through his art.

In Ai Weiwei The Fake Case, we see the artist wracked by insomnia, memory loss, and nightmares stemming from the psychological torture of his imprisonment. His home and studio are surrounded by cameras, subjecting him to 24-hour surveillance. However, we also see the artist turn to free expression to wrestle with these issues. During his time under house arrest he secretly produces S.A.C.R.E.D., a piece composed of six dioramas representing his experiences in solitary confinement. Ai is also able to smuggle the piece out of China to be displayed at the Venice Biennale and reclaim his right to free expression in innovative ways. As he declares, “a life lived in silence is not a life.”

Little of the artist’s material circumstances have changed since the filming of Ai Weiwei The Fake Case. Surveillance cameras still surround his home and studio, and Ai remains prohibited from leaving China as authorities have held his passport since his 2011 arrest. This prevented him from attending his largest exhibit to date, Ai Weiwei: Evidence, which opened in Berlin at the Martin-Gropius-Bau on April 3, 2014. However, despite continuous attempts to silence and censor him, the artist soldiers on in his pursuit of free speech. If anything, Evidence represents one of his most explicitly political shows to date.

The show continues to expand on themes of his detention, echoing S.A.C.R.E.D. through a full scale reconstruction of the Chinese jail cell where he spent 81 days, as well as a live action video re-enactment of his experiences as a prisoner. As such, Ai appears to have mastered some of the darkness that plagued him following his release–a triumph that is explored throughout Ai Weiwei The Fake Case. Instead of censoring himself, Ai continues to tackle such contentious topics as the Chinese government’s treatment of migrant workers, geopolitical ambitions, and rocky relationship with the West.

The bitter irony, of course, is that while Ai Weiwei is banned from leaving China he is also forbidden from showing his artworks within China. However, while Ai Weiwei is unable to be physically present to speak directly about his work, his social and political critiques of the one-party state in which he resides are unmistakeable. Ai Weiwei The Fake Case presents a rare opportunity to meet the man behind the message.

You can purchase tickets to Ai Weiwei The Fake Case here.

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Ai Weiwei The Fake Case

Saturday, April 26 | 4:30 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, 350 King Street West

Sunday, April 27 | 1:00 p.m.
Hart House Theatre, 7 Hart House Circle

Friday, May 2 | 6:00 p.m.
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema