Ai Weiwei's Human Flow

Human Flow Photo.jpg

By Andrew Quist

“As a human being, I believe any crisis or hardship that happens to another human being should be as if it is happening to us. If we don’t have that kind of trust in each other, we are deeply in trouble. Then we will experience walls and division and misleading by politicians that will make for a future in the shadows.”

-Ai Weiwei

We are in the midst of a refugee crisis. In the past few years, millions of refugees have crossed from one country, or continent, into another, and they all have one thing in common: they are risking their lives to escape hell.

In Human Flow (2017), artist, activist, and filmmaker Ai Weiwei combines stunning bird's-eye aerial shots of enormous refugee camps with face-to-face interviews with individuals telling their stories. The film conveys the tremendous scope of the current refugee problem while simultaneously creating empathy in the viewer for the plight of refugees. Filmed in over 23 countries, the film examines refugee flows in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and North America.

During an interview with a refugee from Afghanistan and her family at the Greece-Macedonia border, the filmmakers inform the family that the border to Macedonia has been closed to Afghans. When the filmmakers ask the woman what she will do, she responds, stunned, “We don’t have a plan. . . No one leaves their country lightly. You only put yourself through the hardship of fleeing in order to find safety.” Watching moments like these, it is impossible not to feel heartbreak.

With this documentary, Ai Weiwei has provided a powerful antidote to psychic numbing. The central question of the film remains unanswered, “Will our global society emerge from fear, isolation, and self-interest and choose a path of openness, freedom, and respect for humanity?”

Human Flow is available on various video streaming platforms, including Amazon Video, iTunes, Google Play, and YouTube.

Photograph by Amazon Studios