Hot Docs 2014: Ai Weiwei – The Fake Case (Andreas Johnsen)

2014_hotdocs_stock_imageHaving its North American premiere this afternoon at the Lightbox at 4:30 is this fascinating documentary that takes us into the monitored home and life of the famous Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei.

The government, unhappy with his art, and his outspoken stance on rights and freedoms imprisoned him for 86 days, after that he was put on probation, with his every move watched, while he prepared to deal with the fabricated case the government was bringing against him.

All the while, Weiwei finds ways around his probation restrictions to share his art and his story.

When he is in a time of need, the young and brave of China come to his aid, sending him donations to help finance his case, while the government tries to figure out how to deal with him, how to suppress and silence his international voice.

Johnsen has crafted a quiet, almost introspective film that takes us inside Weiwei’s life, that is filled with art and family, including his young son, and shows us a man who continues to bravely stand up for what he knows to be right, making the viewer wonder if you could be so brave.


The film gives us a brief glimpse of the man and the artist, whose calm demeanour belies his determination, and though he is slow to anger, he is a formidable opponent.

While he spends his time in probation, the government slowly whittles away as much support from them as he can, driving his manager and accountant of the country. However, in today’s digital age, with information available and out there at a keystroke, even to some degree in China, his case has taken on gargantuan proportions, and Weiwei has practically become the symbol for the fight of the Chinese people.

Johnsen’s film takes us inside one man’s life and the impact that he’s having on his country, through his art and his voice.  It is less angry, and outraged than I thought it would be, but that is simply because Weiwei exudes a sense of calm, and while he may be troubled about things, he is always working out how to get his voice for freedom out there.

The film is a gentle look at one man, thrust into the international spotlight for his art and his outspoken, and correct beliefs that contradict his governments rule. One man, one country’s fight for freedom, through art.

Ai Weiwei The Fake Case screens again on the 27th at 1:00 at the Hart House, and one final time on the 2nd at 6:00 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.





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