A boat full of refugees drifts through the Mediterranean sea, slowly approaching the Greek shore. As the boat hits land and the people are helped off, Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei hovers nearby with a camera. This is the first of many groups of refugees Weiwei will meet during his documentary Human Flow, as he travels around the world, from Afghanistan to France to the US, exploring how – and why – millions of people leave their home countries to seek better lives across the globe.
Weiwei and his crew use a variety of methods – from traditional professional cameras to iPhones – to chart the journeys of the world’s refugees. The artist-turned-director doesn’t just follow his subjects, though, he talks to them and takes selfies with them, joining in their treks to better lives. He also speaks to various Human Rights officials and people involved in the protection of refugees.
It’s not difficult to sympathise with the countless men, women and children searching for a safe, happy place to live – some of the regions they come from, including war-torn Syrian villages and towns caught up in conflict, are far from homely, and, by the same count, some of the makeshift camps – including the infamous Calais Jungle – are hardly any better. Scenes of families, many with young children, living in office block-like rooms in an airport hangar in Berlin are genuinely disheartening. The film makes a great case for why these people deserve good, proper homes.
At almost two-and-a-half hours, Human Flow does feel perhaps slightly too long – 20 minutes or so could have been cut without much being lost – however, it’s nevertheless an engrossing, involving documentary, made by people who really care about the cause they’re portraying. The aerial photography of the Mediterranean sea, war-ravaged Middle Eastern landscapes and makeshift refugee camps is truly stunning, but at the same time provides a stark view of just what thousands of migrants come from, and why they’re seeking refuge.
Human Flow is released nationwide on 8th December 2017.
Watch the trailer for Human Flow here: