A scene from Human Flow ... director and political artist Ai Weiwei puts himself into about half of the film, which contains a disturbing amount of voyeurism. Picture: Supplied

In his latest documentary, political artist Ai Weiwei seems to have taken the notion of going with the flow a bit too far. Like, almost two-and-a-half hours too far. 

But that’s not what makes Human Flow a bit of a bore.

Yes, I know it’s highly unpopular to say that the issue of refugees being turned away or literally dying is boring, but the way that Weiwei delivers it is. We live in a society where something is constantly going wrong and there is an injustice somewhere in the world every single minute, so it’s easy for the masses to have become jaded.

What I expected to see was a unique and humanising film about refugees from all over the world. 

What I saw instead was Weiwei putting himself in about half of the film. 

We follow him shooting destitute people on his iPhone. We see him lying on the ground to capture immigrants as a boat is reigned into shore on a small camera. The bigger cameras train their lenses on him as he talks to a UN official in a car. We are even subjected to Weiwei blushing as Dana, the Princess of Jordan, teases him about his blanket and beard, instead of just watching a film about real people.

There were interesting points made. Like how the average time spent as a refugee – or living in a home that is not yours as a displaced individual – is about 25 years. Imagine that.

The film travels to Bangladesh, Iraq, Kenya, Jordan, Greece and Mexico to see how walls and fences and other measures are enforced in order to keep people out.

It was also interesting to learn that the Refugee Convention was spearheaded on the European continent, but it was this very continent that now sought to aggressively shut their doors to those who were most in need of it. 

In Human Flow, there is quite a lot of finger-pointing. And there is a disturbing voyeurism that is the dominant gaze throughout the 140 minutes of watching Weiwei and a little bit of footage focusing on the refugees.

How Weiwei frames the discourse is almost like poverty porn. 

I understand that he is meant to document and not necessarily eradicate the problem with just one documentary … but there seems to be no point to the film at all. 

There’s no rallying cry to get organised. There’s no attempt to tell a story that has never been told before. 

Human Flow is just an indulgent art work that will get a limited cinema release. 

uHelenH

IOL