Chronicling some of the very tangible costs of dissident behavior in societies much less freer than ours, Danish filmmaker Andreas Johnsen’s Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case is an absorbing nonfiction look at renowned Chinese multimedia artist Ai Weiwei, who, after just under three months of isolated imprisonment with no formal charges, is transferred to house arrest and put on a year’s probation, barred from giving interviews or having a domestic online presence.
Alison Klayman‘s superb 2012 documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry offered up a much more rounded portrait of the man as an artist, though that film also dealt heavily with the political activism (including spearheading a citizens’ investigation into the more than 5,400 children who were killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, in large part owing to shoddy government construction) which landed Ai in trouble with Chinese authorities. Following a contentious arrest, Klayman’s film actually ends with Ai emerging from his aforementioned confinement. Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case, then, tracks his cautious reemergence and attempts to come to grips with the emotional and physical fallout (sleep difficulties, a fog of depression) stemming from his detention. It’s less a study of China as a society in flux and more an unobtrusive document of roiled personality. For the full, original review, from Paste, click here. (International Film Circuit, unrated, 89 minutes)