Human Flow, Curzon Bloomsbury, 26 December 2017

What better way to cheer yourselves up on Boxing Day than to visit Janie’s mum in the morning and then to go and see Human Flow in the afternoon?

Seriously, our adjective of choice for this movie about refugees and the mass migration of people is “troubling”.

Ai Weiwei is a masterful artist, unafraid to combine high art with social and political issues – click here for our thoughts on the Ai Weiwei exhibition a couple of years ago. He shows himself to have a wonderful eye for cinematography too.

Here is a link to the IMDb resource on this movie.

Below is an excellent trailer that will give you a reasonable feel for the film:

It is not a movie for the faint-hearted. Janie wondered immediately after the film whether Ai Weiwei had gone too far when getting refugees to relate and revisit the horrors of their experiences. One woman starts to vomit while recalling her story, while one man, showing the record cards of his decimated family sounds traumatised almost to the point of insanity while retelling their tragedy.

But it is also a movie that looks at the movement of people in the abstract, with statements by political and civil leaders expounding many different views on the causes of and possible solutions for the migration crisis facing the world.

Ai Weiwei takes us to many of the world’s trouble spots. Janie and I have been to many such places ourselves, but have never really witnessed the more extreme causes of human migration first hand.

Janie and I visited a traditional Garo Village in Meghalaya in 2005, only to learn that the village has been razed by the electricity board and the Garo people were now living in a shanty, fearful of the wet season to come.Ai Weiwei is brilliant, in my view, by showing us the many sides to the story, from the deeply human individual cases to some beautifully shot scenes, some of people on the move, others of mundane scenes such as a gigantic pile of life jackets. Janie questioned whether Ai Weiwei’s eye for artistic images was appropriate when depicting scenes related to such suffering – so many migrants are lost at sea for want of, or despite those life jackets.

It is 140 minutes long, this film. I think it is a truly superb piece of documentary cinema. I challenge anyone to watch it and not be moved by it.

It will probably also change some aspect of your opinions on this politically and socially-charged subject. If you think there is a fundamental difference between refugees and economic migrants, for example, this film might make you start to think differently.

This film doesn’t provide answers, but it certainly informs and asks the right sort of challenging questions.

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