December 7, 2017 -- Chinese artist and activist Ai WeiWei enables viewers of this documentary film to witness the massive, often tragic, migration of millions of refugees, and to see where they often end up.
It looks as if we are living in an age of massive human migrations, perhaps on a scale never seen before, but certainly not since World War II. “Human Flow” shows refugees streaming out of Syria, out of Africa, out of Myanmar, out of Iraq and other places, on foot, in boats, or by plane, car or train. They are fleeing war, religious persecution or climate change. One thing they all have in common is desperation to get away from the chaos and danger. They are looking for safety and peace.
They are refugees outside their own countries, or sometimes inside their own countries. They often end up in refugee camps with no prospects for a job, a home, or any way to advance their situations. They grow frustrated, angry. Young angry men are tempted by the promises of terrorist organizations.
Ai WeiWei himself appears in many scenes, talking to refugees, sampling the local food, music and customs, dancing. There are some highly imaginative camera angles in the film. The most impressive shot appears to be made from a flying drone. At first it looks like a fence, a border wall like many others, as the camera zooms in closer, it looks like insects crawling on the wall. As the camera zooms in closer still, we see that these are not insects at all, but people walking along pathways in a refugee camp. This scene says a lot with images alone.
This film uses a lot of shots made by cameras mounted on drones in order to show the scale of these massive migrations of people, as well as the size of these huge refugee camps. Interviews with refugees bring the scale of misery down to the personal level. By showing so many refugee camps and documenting so many migrations, this film shows us what all these people have in common with each other, and with us.
This movie also makes it obvious that we can't simply pretend that these refugees, and the causes that have set them fleeing their homes, have nothing to do with us. After all, it was the United States that went to war with Iraq, destabilizing that country. The United States and Europe destabilized Libya. It was the United States, Europe and Russia who worsened the chaos in Syria and bombed millions out of their homes. Now many in Europe and the United States think of the refugees as a problem to be ignored, avoided, kept at arm's length.
It is left to other countries, including Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey to absorb vast numbers of refugees as European countries and America put up walls to keep the refugees out. Smugglers, pirates and human traffickers all profit from the refugees. Governments make back room deals with each other to try to stop the flow of refugees from Africa, yet the flow continues, despite the danger, the cost and all obstacles put in their way.
This movie offers no solution to this problem. It merely shows us what the problem is. It appears that as long as governments can get away with forcing people out of their homes, towns and cities without paying the resulting costs of those actions, this problem is not going away. This film rates a B.
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