By Steve V. Rodriguez
Ai Weiwei’s new documentary, HUMAN FLOW is an eye opening reality of the world’s refugee epidemic. From shocking statistical numbers to individual faces and stories, Mr. Ai paints a vivid moving portrait of the incredulous suffering and displacement that refugees endure. As a global artist and political activist Mr. Ai utilizes facts, spiritual quotes, faces, stories, reports and incorporates imagery over narration as a choice to give a reality check on the growing number of refugees who are displaced from their homeland, culture and life.
Early on in the film viewers are given the original definition of a refugee that was instituted in 1951 at the UN Refugee Convention. It reads: A refugee is a person with “A well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” The numbers are staggering unveiling that since World War II, 1 billion people have used the Mediterranean Sea in various forms of rafts to flee their homeland, and that 65 million people are displaced today. They are finding asylum in various countries in Europe like Berlin, Greece and Southern Italy.
However, when you hear President Trump talk about building a wall to keep immigrants out, all one needs to do is realize that since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 there were only 11 countries who had walls. Now there are 70 countries that have built walls and fences to keep out refugees and immigrants leaving them displaced. Work is being done and deals are being made to address this growing number of displacement. As Turkey has been in financial crises, the EU struck a deal in 2016 to try and stop the refugee flow by sending them back to Turkey in exchange for promising Turkey 6 billion Euro in aid and visa-free travel to Europe.
“Human Flow” spans the various borders where walls and gates have been erected and shows the harsh conditions refugees face. Mr. Ai visits many of these fronts lines giving refugees the humanity they deserve by simply interacting with them. Some of the best moments of the film are with Mr. Ai exchanging a simple conversation with some young women who express their desire to want to see the world while stating that despite their predicament, they still can smile. In an another moment, we see Ai sharing an iPhone picture with a little boy and laughing. There is a very touching and humorous moment where he jokingly exchanges his passport with a refugee’s passport, saying “let’s exchange identities, I will become you and you can become me”. He tells the same man that he respects him. It’s these humane moments in the film that will connect with viewers with the faces of refugees and their incredible heartbreaking struggles. So many of these express their love for their homeland sharing that they never wanted to leave their country and life, but in many cases this is not possible due to the war that wages on and the destructive collapse of any form existence that exists in the place they used to call home.
HUMAN FLOW is playing now in selected cities.