Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case
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June 27th - July 1st.

In April 2011, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is kidnapped by the Chinese authorities and detained at a secret location. 81 days later he is released, but put under house arrest. In October 2011, he is named the world’s most powerful artist by ArtReview. The man we know as an unstoppable fighter for the freedom of speech is merely a shadow of his former self. He suffers from sleeping disorder and memory loss. 18 cameras are monitoring his studio and home. Police agents follow his every move, and heavy restrictions from the Kafkaesque Chinese authorities weigh him down. Journalists, the art world and his family all want a piece of him. On top of it all he is hit with a gigantic lawsuit from the Chinese government, which he soon names ‘The Fake Case’ in reference to the obvious false reasons behind the accusations.

Ai Weiwei is brought to his knees but he is surely not ready to lie down and give up his fight for basic human rights. He spends time with his young son, talks about the dark past with his mother and secretly creates a stunning piece of art depicting his time in detention, always blending his life and art with politics. In response to the lawsuit, ordinary Chinese citizens spontaneously send him money with personal notes about keeping up the fight. Ai Weiwei’s firm belief that China is about to change is refueled, and the headstrong artist finds new energy to provoke the mighty Chinese powers. He wants to stay a free human being, and to lend voice to himself and to the Chinese people.

Director's Statement

Ai Weiwei is a man who does not give up even when his life is in danger. He seems to have an uncontrollable urge to resist and a backbone that gets stronger each time somebody tries to break it. He believes so deeply in openness, transparency and in the importance of expressing yourself that it is the equivalent of the need to breathe. You do not truly live if you do not or cannot express yourself.

I’ve had close to unlimited access to film his life and I believe this is an expression of his acceptance of my method and patience and persistence as well as his will to show the world that he has nothing to hide, whatsoever.

From my very first trip to China back in 2010 I only imposed one rule on myself: to be with Ai Weiwei as much as possible and to film only when he was present, to see what he sees and hear what he hears.

I’ve had no intention of giving a broad, many-voiced view of China or to let a lot of people express their opinions of Ai Weiwei. I’ll let the audience judge for itself by seeing the China that Ai Weiwei sees, the China that he experiences: as a privileged artist, but also as a constantly monitored, restricted and oppressed human being. My ambition was to be as ‘pure’ as I could in my point of view, sharing the eyes of Ai Weiwei in the way I looked at China.

The film started out as a portrait of an artist, but has evolved to tell a universal story about a man and his struggle, a man on the horns of a tragic dilemma. It has become an epic tale in which Ai Weiwei is a metaphor expressing human existence in a closed, opaque, mind-controlling society.

Andreas Johnsen