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Review: Human Flow + Q&A with Ai Weiwei

“Our shouting is louder than our actions,
Our swords are taller than us,
This is our tragedy.”

Nizzar Quabbani, Syrian Poet

Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the premiere screening of Human Flow with a live Q&A from director Ai Weiwei (the well known Chinese artist) afterwards. The documentary tackles the issue of migration from a global perspective and presents it in a poetic and engaging way.

Human Flow presents the critical issue of migration from both broad and personal points of view and gives the issue a unique overview without being too subjective or emotional. In this review, I will be focusing on the vital message of the movie rather than its technical aspects. This film is a deep exploration of its topic, an essay exploring a crucial issue. Human Flow doesn’t offer an easy journey for the audience as it explores the issue nor an easy answer to the questions it raises. What it offers is a deeply human attitude as it faces us with the harsh questions: ‘When did we become so ignorant?’ and ‘Where is our humanity?’

Currently, there are 65 million migrants, which is the largest number since the Second World War. Ai Weiwei explores the global refugee crisis in 23 countries and 40 refugee camps to get closer to the notion of what it means to be a migrant all around the world. The visuals of Human Flow are beautiful, epic, full of expression and symbolism. Ai Weiwei does not use typical peace/war images, but instead shocks us with harsh, unforgettable images and brilliantly chosen quotations from literature.

Certain images stick in my mind. The wide, high angle shots of beautiful locations with crowds of tiny people, dwarfed by the immense landscape around them. As the camera observes them from afar, you are struck by their numbers but as the camera moves closer we see the countless human faces running away from war, hunger or global warming. They hope that they will find a place to give them a chance for a better life. The director guides the audience through this epic, global journey. He is a constant presence behind the camera and expertly drives the narrative of the film. He takes the viewer from the American-Mexican border, to Gaza, to Turkey and so on. Even though the refugees in each place face different challenges, one thing stays the same. They are all human beings who need our help.

The beauty of the natural world and the misery of humanity are pictured unflinchingly alongside each other. This makes the film hard to watch in places but it stirred up complex emotions in me and many members of the  the audience; you might start to re-evaluate your life and the possibility that you could help. The message of Human Flow is hugely important; being immune to the people who are suffering is extremely dangerous. To be honest, what do most of us know of famine or war? That’s why it is important to watch a documentary like Human Flow to be challenged and moved by it. This film connects us to parts of our world which we don’t necessarily know.  It connects us with the people, it helps us to see human faces, to hear human voices and to think about what can we do as individuals to solve the current issue of refugees.

If you would like to help, check out this website for information on how to take action:


Image source: DemocracyNow.com