Not many artists get to have several groundbreaking, impactful careers at once. Ai Weiwei is simultaneously a world-renowned contemporary visual artist, a prolific and powerful documentary filmmaker, and a
Not many artists get to have several groundbreaking, impactful careers at once. Ai Weiwei is simultaneously a world-renowned contemporary visual artist, a prolific and powerful documentary filmmaker, and a hugely important and influential voice of political activism in his native China. His latest work, Human Flow, synthesizes all three of those careers and exercises his singular artistic vision in the exploration of what may be the defining international challenge of our time: the global refugee crisis. As the movie itself states, more than 65 million people today have been forcibly displaced from their homes around the world. Weiwei brings his camera down to their eye level, and shows their harrowing experiences as they move from where they want to be to where they have no choice but to go.
Visiting Syria, Macedonia, Mosul, Berlin, Calais, Gaza, Turkey, Bangladesh, the US-Mexico border and more, Human Flow establishes on a personal scale the overwhelming enormity of the problem. The refugee crisis has political, social, humanitarian and environmental ramifications of global consequence, but it’s made up of the collective stories of millions of individuals, each with their own story, their own background, their own inner life. By delivering those individual stories, and by doing so with Ai Weiwei’s painterly visual style, Human Flow puts what otherwise might just be newspaper headlines, easily ignored, directly into the minds of its viewers — and in so doing, it doesn’t shy away from demanding that we all do something to help.