This month I attended the IA movie night as an academic requirement. During this event we watched the documentary Human Flow, which depicts the global extent of the refugee crisis. Director Ai Weiwei documents the experience of refugees in over twenty countries with an emphasis on the human nature of everyone involved. The film opens with Weiwei explaining what inspired him to create Human Flow. After receiving his passport back from Chinese authorities, Weiwei was able to vacation on the Greek island of Lesbos. While he was there he saw refugees arriving on the shores and began to film what he was seeing. He then continues on to follow the refugee community throughout the Mediterranean, Europe, the Middle East, and Mexico. As a child who grew up during China’s Cultural Revolution, Weiwei understood the dehumanizing treatment that was faced by many refugees and, therefore, deeply identified with them and their experiences.
The film, principally, is used to convey the seriousness of the issue. However, several other themes are also presented including cause, effect, and shared responsibility. Weiwei is able to identify four main classifications of causation of refugee crises. Those classifications being: wars between states, ethnic conflicts, non-ethnic conflicts and flights from repression. Weiwei also extensively documents the effects of these large populations on their hosting nations and the effects of temporary makeshift housing on the wellbeing of refugees. Additionally, Weiwei males a point to discuss the responsibilities that come along with hosting refugees. Human Flow shows how countries, and those neighboring them, with large refugee populations require extra help and accommodation. Often with delayed responses from wealthier nations to provide additional aid.
As Wewei states, the purpose of this film is to increase public awareness of the crisis and to spark action. Weiwei does a phenomenal job of capturing the humanity of situation. This film is a brilliant piece of work that absolutely pertains to our roles within the International Affairs scholars program. As IA scholars we are tasked with educating and involving ourselves in the global community. However, it can be quite difficult to relate to or even understand a situation which you have never personally experienced. The film forged a connection between the greater audience and the refugee community based in the fact that we are all human. In fact, the title Human Flow leaves creates a sense of humanity amongst the audience that remains at the forefront of the watcher’s mind as the film progresses. This film should continue to be shown as it is an eye opening and humanizing experience for the audience and inspires the type of social activism encouraged by the IA program.