Heartbreaking doco takes on plight of forced migration

Opening shot of Al Weiwei's "Human Flow".

Human Flow
Directed by Ai Weiwei
In cinemas from March 15

Filmed over one year in 23 countries, Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow is at the same time beautiful and heartbreaking.

Employing aerial cinematography of refugee camps across several continents, and the flight of refugees, the film has an awe-inspiring and devastatingly powerful impact.

You feel like you can start to get your head around what 65 million displaced people actually looks like. In reality, the film only scratches the surface of the global refugee crisis.

Weiwei and his crew also spend time in refugee camps, and reveal the brutal police attacks on refugees camped on the Greek-Macedonian border, and the intolerable conditions refugees endure.

There is no obtrusive narration in this film. Instead, at critical points, small headlines scroll across the bottom of the screen or brief text appears at the side. These give political context to the images and provide background on the conflicts leading to this mass migration.

Human Flow also builds empathy. Watching the acts of sheer heroism by activists who help to guide overcrowded refugee boats to safety across the Mediterranean Sea will bring you to tears.

The film illustrates what “Fortress Europe” actually looks and feels like. It contrasts the situation in poorer European countries such as Greece — forced to cope with masses of refugees arriving across the Mediterranean despite the brutal austerity forced on it by the European Union — to places such as Berlin. There, former airfield hangers are being repurposed to house refugees lucky enough to make it across multiple borders.

Weiwei does not just focus on the most recent crises brought about by conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Myanmar and across Africa, he visits Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan, where generations of refugees have been born and raised.

Human Flow is available for fundraising screenings and group bookings. The timing of its release on March 15 also coincides with the lead up to the Palm Sunday rallies for refugees across the country.

Weiwei will be in town for the film’s premiere at the Sydney Biennale. His work Law of the Journey, a 70 metre suspended inflatable rubber raft with figures, will form part of the Biennale and will be on display at Cockatoo Island from March 16-June 11.

[For group bookings and fundraiser screenings click here.]

Like the article? Subscribe to Green Left now! You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

If you like our work, become a supporter

Green Left is a vital social-change project and aims to make all content available online, without paywalls. With no corporate sponsors or advertising, we rely on support and donations from readers like you.

For just $5 per month get the Green Left digital edition in your inbox each week. For $10 per month get the above and the print edition delivered to your door. You can also add a donation to your support by choosing the solidarity option of $20 per month.

Freecall now on 1800 634 206 or follow the support link below to make a secure supporter payment or donation online.