Ai Weiwei is an artist who uses many canvases to express himself. From art installations to architecture, social media to the big screen, Ai is one of the most transcendent figures in the world. His latest project, Human Flow, details human migration and the refugee crisis.
The film was shot over the course of a year and covers human movement in 23 countries, people looking for safety and shelter. Whether they’re fleeing from war, politics or climate disruption, Human Flow is a thought-provoking, poignant journey through a harsh reality that large parts of the global population are not yet free.
Ai, whose father was the renowned poet Ai Qing, spent his early years living in political exile with his family in Xingjian, a remote area of China. That experience, he believes, helped him empathize with the hundreds of refugees he interviewed over the course of making the film.
“So since I was very young, I experienced all those very harsh political conditions like the discriminations, all those,” Ai remembers. “So that make me much easier to approach this film, Human Flow, and to see this human tragedy as part of my condition, you know. I feel there’s some connections in there.”
Climate change is one of the factors that has contributed to the global refugee crisis, Ai maintains. One example? Drought conditions in Syria. “I think before the Syrian war there’s seven years of drought,” says Ai. “Many people think that also contribute to the upheavals in the nation.”
Ai’s hope in making Human Flow is to shine a light on a worldwide crisis, “to see humanity as one, you know, human rights as one.
“If someone’s right is being violated, we all get hurt,” he continues. “If we don’t have this kind of understanding the problem, you know, someday we all can be get hurt. Because if we only have for this kind of visual condition to see us as one family…then we can have our empathies and we can come up some kind of solutions.”
– Anny Celsi