Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case

Last day for this here in Boston. Well, Cambridge, actually, since it's at the Kendall Square Cinemas. It's pretty good, though, and if you liked Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry at IFFBoston (or elsewhere), it's worth checking out the next chapter and also seeing how two different people take on the same subject matter.

I'd actually be kind of curious what folks who see this without having seen Never Sorry think; the two aren't exactly an official series, but I do know my perspective on this was very much influenced by what I thought of the first. It's kind of interesting, because for as much as I've seen people ask for sequels at documentary Q&As, this is the first time that I've really seen something that sort of qualified (no, I haven't seen the Up films), and while fictional narrative sequels tend to do something to catch the audience up, this seemed to make an effort to create a different impression than the other movie.

Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case

* * * (out of four)
Seen 9 July 2014 in Landmark Kendall Square #2 (first-run, DCP)

Though the two are unrelated outside of their subject and subject matter - they are made by different directors for different producers with visual styles that are fairly divergent as documentaries shot in the same places go - it's hard for me to not look at Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case as a sequel to Alison Klayman's Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. That's probably unique to me mostly knowing of Ai Weiwei from that previous movie; those who haven't seen it or are more familiar with the Beijing artist will probably enjoy it as well, as it's pretty well done with its own merits.

For this movie, director Andreas Johnsen starts filming Ai in mid-2011, soon after he is released from nearly three months of detention to begin a year of probation. The charge given is that his design and art production company, Fake Ltd., has evaded taxes, although you wouldn't think that would be a charge that subjects the outspoken artist to a gag order - albeit one that he will attempt to subvert in any way he can.

Johnsen does not spend much time describing what landed Ai in hot water, though those who have seen Klayman's film will recognize the printouts adorning his walls. In some ways, he is presented as somewhat more conventional than the man from Never Sorry. In some ways, this is a bit of a weakness; although Johnsen starts the film with a quote from Picasso on how art "is an instrument of war", it would not be difficult at all to watch just this film and get the idea that Ai Weiwei was a family man who created peculiar and sometimes risqué art that ran afoul of the government for some unknown reason, leading to a political awakening that made him more of an activist artist. And while there's a note of truth to that - what he is doing by the end of this film is much more pointed - it does a bit of a disservice to him.

Full review at EFC

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