It's Ai Weiwei vs Leni Riefenstahl in Propaganda: The Art of Lies

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      A documentary by Larry Weinstein. In English and German, with English subtitles. Rated PG

      A film so timely, it could almost include the feed on your current smartphone, Propaganda: The Art of Selling Lies is a neat overview of how information is twisted, repeated, repackaged, and otherwise auctioned on the open market of un-made minds.

      The breezily paced, 90-minute film concerns itself with the very notion of message-spreading-of "grasping the symbolic layer of language", as one expert puts it.

      Obviously, a lot of myth-making sticks to pre- (or post-) literate visuals. Alexander the Great didn't litter the empire with his likeness in statues and coins as a make-work project for artists-just as egomaniacs don't put their names on buildings and walls because they love typography.

      The objects of myth-making are not always aware of what they are selling. Obama's reps knew what they were doing when they asked Shepard Fairey to add the word Hope to his silk-screened portrait. But there's no indication that Che Guevara knew that his accidental encounter with Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick, at a bar near the Shannon airport, would result in one of the most iconic images ever.

      The movie doesn't make much distinction between artists flogging an established order, like Leni Riefenstahl with her Triumph of the Will, and those pushing against it, such as Ai Weiwei's pointed digs at the Chinese establishment.

      Ubiquitous New Yorker cover artist Barry Blitt, seen in his studio, knows just who he's needling with his finely wrought drawings. But do those Charlie Hebdo cartoons even qualify as art or are they pure, and patently dangerous, provocations?

      Working from a script by doc veterans David Mortin and Andrew Edmonds, director Larry Weinstein (best known for profiles of late, great musicians) doesn't attempt to resolve these questions. And his new effort is far from definitive.

      But it's a great way to tune up the bullshit meters we already have.