Human Flow shines a light on global migration and the bounds that connect us as humans
Ai Weiwei’s new documentary gives us a unique insight into the global refugee crisis. Filmed across 23 countries over 2 years – the global migration crisis has never been shown on this scale
Globally we have never been more connected. News travels across the world in an instant. It is possible to get online and video chat with someone on the other side of the planet; air travel is accessible; the flow of information across the planet is so simple. Whilst the breaking of digital borders can make us feel so connected as a species on this planet the increased rigidity of physical country borders has counter balanced this. Human Flow highlights this whilst reminding us that were all brothers and sisters on this planet and interconnected in ways beyond the digital
Never has the plight of the refugee crisis been shown at such a scale yet honed in on the lives of the individuals themselves that we cannot separate their lives from our own. Media regarding refugees have made refugees almost faceless and in many ways given a view of being than and separate from the remainder of society. Human Flow breaks that boundary – we hear their names, see their lives, their pets, the mobile phones, their stories, the families, their laughs cries play and seriousness
Human Flows gives a sense of scale of the crisis weaving in between refugee hotspots like Greece, Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, France, Mexico/US border, Kenya to name a few
We see the movement of people over land and sea, arriving in boats, crossing rivers, walking along great distances in mass and being stuck at borders. We hear their stories and see their lives before leaving and now. This is interjected with facts on screen and interview with experts on the crisis
Human Flow is equal parts journalistic piece and art piece. Rather than providing answers to questions on the crisis, Human Flow is poetic and artistic in its delivery. It interjects and immerses you into the many facets of the refugee crisis. I found myself at many times marveling at the beauty of the shots amongst the tragedy shown on screen. There are huge sweeping wide shots across landscapes that take the breath away. One scene in particular of burning oil fields in Iraq that ISIS set a blaze is so jaw droppingly beautiful that for a moment you forget you’re seeing so much destruction to lives and the environment on screen
In addition to these wide shots much of the scale of the crisis is captured on drone footage that give an amazing sense of scale of the refugee camps we are injected into. There is also iPhone shot footage from the man himself within the movie
In a very humbling way Ai Weiwei comes from behind the camera and makes appearances in the documentary itself. He does this without overpowering it and making it about him, but at the same time there is a sense throughout that this is an Ai Weiwei joint. Whether its helping refugees off boats, giving them cups of tea, consoling people he’s interviewing, exchanging passports with people and running into border patrol at the US / Mexico border to name a few.
There is a sense of humanity that his interactions and presence brings to the documentary that no other can do. Ai Weiwei becomes a lubricant of sorts that brings us closer to the lives of the people we see on screen, we live through him and see this world through his eyes that gives the people an identity which we don’t see portrayed of refugees in mass media
Despite its beauty Human Flow is no easy watch. Its harrowing and tear jerking in its beauty as well as being deeply intimate. Over the 2 plus hours you’re taken on a deep exploration into the global migration crisis. Its strange to think considering the nomadic nature of much of human life over the last many thousands of years that the mass movement of people is in such trouble now. Human Flow offers a deep message to this and is deeply educational, thought provoking and should be seen by all
Rather than giving answers Ai Weiwei paints a picture igniting conversations in our minds bringing to the forefront of our minds this growing crisis which encompasses issues many didn’t think of before such as the effect of climate change on the movement of people.
One scene in particular shows the treatment of a tiger that made it through the secret smuggling tunnels from Egypt to Gaza. The extraordinary efforts that were made to transport it across the world, give it vaccinations and the necessary papers to be taken to a reserve in Johannesburg were vast. When shown alongside millions of people trying to escape war and persecution sends a message – the movie doesn’t pass judgement but paints a picture in your mind
Highly recommended for all to see – especially those in Europe. Human Flow gives a global view of a crisis that affects the individual and the global. We all as humans and brothers and sisters on this planet should be aware of. Go out and see one of the most important documentaries of the year
Ai WeiWei was in attendance at the screening alongside Jon Snow, Lord Alf Dubs, Josie Naughton & Maya Ghazal speaking about the refugee crisis. It was great to see him in person